Juvenile Law

Juvenile law is a term that means different things to different people. Typically, juvenile law includes two major categories: dependency and delinquency cases. Dependency cases involve the relationship between the child and parents that require state intervention. A dependency case arises when the state through its agencies or the court  intervenes to protect a child. The harm arises due to the fault or failure of the child’s parent or caregiver, either through abuse or neglect. Delinquency,  on the other hand involves relations between the child and the state due to the conduct of the child.  


Dependency law, including child abuse and neglect cases,  is concerned with the protection and care of childre at risk of abuse and or neglect. While some children under state protective supervision remain in their home, others have been removed and placed in fostercare.  In Oregon, state policy acknowledges and protects both the legal rights of children and the liberty interests of parents recognized under constitutional law.  Recognition of concerns for child safety focus dependency law on issues of harm and neglect. However, years of experience with dependency courts, foster care and the children who emerge from these systems necessitate that the needs of the family be given attention in dependency matters. Thus dependency law and courts focus on not only short term protection and safety but also upon a child’s long term need for permanency by a family that nurtures the child. For this reason, the primary focus of all parties in a dependency action should be to maintain and, if necessary, improve this crucial relationship between the child and the child’s primary caretakers. Painful experience has demonstrated that removal is not the only option and that strengthening a child’s family through services, intervention and monitoring may prove optimal. 

The state, through the Department of Human Services, frequently prosecutes and oversees child protective cases. However, relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and even emancipated siblings frequently intervene in the lives of the children they love. Often, a family member is better positioned to care for a child who must be removed from a home in which that child is at risk.  Contact me if you or a child you love is involved or should be the subject of a dependency case.

Juvenile Criminal Law/Delinquency

Delinquency is the branch of criminal justice designed to address behavior by children that if committed by adults would constitute crimes. Under Oregon law, the juvenile justice system’s stated purposes are to protect the public, reduce juvenile delinquency and to provide fair and impartial procedures for the resolution of allegations of delinquent conduct. The system contains a continuum of services that range from the preventative to the punitive. While this rehabilitative goal exists, juvenile offenses still face severe penalties and sentences of  indeterminate periods of time. Juveniles in Oregon can be sent to residential programs as young as 12 where legally they may remain until they are 25. Moreover, juveniles can be “waived” into the felony system and tried as adults, as recently occured with a 14 year old juvenile to be tried for aggravated murder.  

Becasue children are treated differently under the law, they are afforded only certain constitutional protections within the delinquency system such as the right to counsel, the right to trial and the right to remain silent.  They do not however, have a right to a jury trial or to bail.  Often, offenses committed by children can impact their lives well into their  adult lives, affecting eligibility for public employment, educational opportunities and sentencing ranges if they re-offend as adults for even minor offenses.  Dealing with juvenile clients requires a different skill set and knowledge base than when delaing with adult clients.  It is important to understand the developmental differences as they impact mitigation, guilt and competance.  An experienced lawyer familiar with these unique aspects of juvenile practie, the special juvenile court rules and experienced in juvenile representation can fight to minimize the impact on your child’s life. Before you or a child you love make any decisions about the resolution of delinquency matter, it is critical to obtain thoughtful advice from an experienced juvenile lawyer.  Contact me if you need representation.


This is a very specific form of relief available to children who are for all intents and purposes, adults in their daily functioning but lack the legal status to fully care for themselves. A minor who is at least 16 years old may be emancipated under Oregon law. 

The minor petitions for a  judgment of emancipation by which the child is recognized as an adult for the certain purposes, including, entering into contracts, establishing residency and legal responsibility (permitting the minor to sue, be sued and by which the minor will be tried as an adult if criminally charged.) This form of emancipation is limited and will not allow an emancipated minor to marry, purchase alcohol or for employment law purposes. A filing fee of $77 must accompany an emancipation petition.

Within 10 days of filing or as soon as possible thereafter, the court will notify the parents and hold a preliminary hearing. The court will deal with any issues that require immediate attention including, issuance of temporary custody order or stopping other proceedings. The court must have the final hearing within 60 days or as soon as possible after the application is filed although the minor and the parents can agree to forego the hearing.

A judgment of emancipation is a matter for the court to decide in its discretion if it finds that emancipation is in the best interests of the minor as indicated by the following factors:

(1) Whether the parents consent;

(2) Whether the minor has been living away from the family home and is substantially able to be self-supporting without guidance or assistance; and

(3) Whether the minor can demonstrate to the court sufficient maturity and knowledge to manage the minor’s own affairs without assistance.

From the perspective of parents, they are relieved of duty to support the emancipated minor including, medical care and education. Parents of an emancipated minor also relinquish any right or authority to control or discipline. The parent of an emancipated minor likely will lose federal or state benefits received on behalf of the child.

Emancipation should not be taken lightly. It is not a solution to parenting problems or difficult child behavior issues. However, it can be an appropriate step to conform the legal status of a young person to the practical reality. If you need more information about emancipation or want to discuss a problem to which emancipation may be the best solution, contact me.

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