Page updated on Jul 27, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Legalese - What do you mean when you use certain words?

CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocate - This is a volunteer program to help the court with cases involving abuse and neglect of children and in some cases custody. Their number is 703-820-9001.

CERTIFY - This is a court process requested by the Commonwealth Attorney to move to the Adult Circuit Court from the Juvenile Court specific serious felony charges that have been placed against juveniles who are 14 years old or older.

CHILD - A person under the age of 18 years. Also known as a juvenile (see below).

CHINS - Cases filed with the Court involving either Children In Need of Services or Children In Need of Supervision. These cases normally are filed as a result of a child running away from home or failing to go to school.

CIVIL ADULT PROTECTIVE ORDERS - These are orders that are requested by Petitioners (see below) against Respondents (see below) because of allegations of family abuse or stalking by the Respondent against the Petitioner.

CONFIDENTIALITY - A legal requirement placed on the court, agencies that work with the court, lawyers, and sometimes, litigants that prevents them from talking about the evidence in a case or prevents the public from being in the courtroom to observe the trial of a case involving a child.

DE NOVO APPEAL - This is a right that any litigant has if they disagree with a final decision of the juvenile court judge. The person who wants to appeal the decision or his/her lawyer must notify the Clerk of the Juvenile Court of their desire to appeal in writing within 10 days of the date of the judge's final decision. The case then goes to the Circuit Court for a brand new trial as if there had not been a trial in juvenile court. New or different evidence can be presented to the judge in Circuit Court and that judge can make different decision from the decision made by the Juvenile Court Judge. There are certain bond conditions for appeal depending on the kind of case.

DIVERSION - A legal method of keeping a case involving a juvenile from being filed in the juvenile court clerk's office. Intake Officers (see below) are allowed to divert less serious delinquent charges from the court system and to provide informal sanctions and monitoring on the juvenile.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - Any assault or physical act of violence against a Family or Household Member (see below). Cases involving Domestic Violence are heard in the juvenile court.

FAMILY ABUSE - Any act of violence or threat of an act of violence against a Family or Household Member (see below).

FAMILY OR HOUSEHOLD MEMBER -Virginia Law defines a family or household member as: (i) the person's spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (ii) the person's former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (iii) the person's parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether such person reside in the same home with the person, (iv) the person's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person, (v) any individual who has a child in common with the person, whether or not the person and that individual has been married or have resided together at any time or (vi) any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous twelve months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing the same home with the person.

FELONY - A crime that can result in an adult being sentenced to the penitentiary, if convicted; or for a juvenile, a delinquent act that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult.

FOCUS PROGRAM - A parent education program offered by the Court Service Unit of the Alexandria Juvenile Court to help parents in custody/visitation cases work together regarding their child.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM - An attorney appointed by the Court to represent the interests of a child in a civil case or an adult who is under a legal disability. A legal disability includes such things as being in jail, being mentally retarded, of having a mental illness or other infirmity that prevents someone from being able to handle and manage his/her own personal affairs.

INTAKE - The process by which the Intake Officer (see below) determines probable cause to allow a Petition to be filed with the juvenile court clerk's office.

INTAKE OFFICER - the person at the Court Service Unit who decides if a case is appropriate to go to court or be diverted in some fashion for the Petitioner or juvenile to receive services that does not include court involvement.

JOINT CUSTODY - Virginia Law defines it as (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child's primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share the physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.

JUVENILE - A person under the age of 18 years. Also known as a child (see above).

JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - An act that breaks the law and is committed by a juvenile. This act would be a crime if committed by an adult.

MEDIATION - A process or mechanism provided by the Court Service Unit as well as private providers in the community to help people resolve issues between themselves. Mediation in the juvenile court is normally used for custody/visitation disputes between parents.

MISDEMEANOR - A crime that could result in an adult being sentenced to jail and/or to pay a fine. For a juvenile it would be a delinquent act for which there could be sanctions including probation, a fine, restitution, a sentence of confinement in the detention home, or commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for an indeterminate period of time.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA DETENTION HOME - This is a locked facility run for the Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and Arlington County where juveniles charged with delinquent acts or convicted of delinquent acts are held.

NOTICE OF HEARING - This is a notification provided by the Clerk's Office to the parties who have an interest in a case before the juvenile court.

PATERNITY - This is a determination as to whether a man is or is not the father of a child.

PERSON WITH A LEGITIMATE INTEREST - This would be someone who had the right to participate in a case before the juvenile court. This normally applies to cases involving custody or visitation.

PETITIONER - This is the person who files a civil case/petition with the Intake Officer. (See Respondent below.)

PROBATION - Juveniles who are convicted of a delinquent offense and juveniles under certain circumstances who are convicted of a CHINS offense can be placed on probation by the court. The Court Service Unit has probation officers that monitor a child's behavior in the community.

RESPONDENT - This is the person against whom a civil case/petition is filed through the Intake Officer. (See Petitioner above.)

SHELTER CARE - This is an unlocked facility run for the Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and Arlington County where juveniles can stay if there is an agreement between their parents and the local department of social services or if the court orders them to stay there.

SOLE CUSTODY - It means that one person retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.

TRANSFER - There are two types of transfer. The first type of transfer occurs when one juvenile court transfers or sends the disposition of a case from the court that heard the evidence to another juvenile court in Virginia that has more contact with and information about a child and his/her family.

The other type of transfer occurs in juvenile delinquency cases where a juvenile court judge decides if cases brought against a juvenile should be heard in juvenile court or circuit court. If the judge decides that it is appropriate, he or she may transfer or send the case or cases to the circuit court of the jurisdiction for trial as though the juvenile were an adult. If convicted the juvenile could receive punishment as though he/she were an adult. In this context transfer is different from certification (see Certify above).