Juvenile Court Law and Legal Definition

Juvenile Court is a special court or division of a trial court which deals with under-age defendants who violate any federal, state or municipal law, and any child who is abused, neglected or dependent. Juveniles over which it has jurisdiction are generally under the age of 18, but juvenile court does not have jurisdiction in cases in which minors are charged as adults.

The court will often attempt to involve parents or social workers and probation officers in the judicial process to direct the minor away from future criminal behavior. However, serious crimes and repeated offenses can result in sentencing juvenile offenders to prison, with transfer to state prison upon reaching adulthood with limited maximum sentences. The court has the power to determine child custody, support and visitation in some circumstances; to permanently terminate parental rights, and to authorize or require treatment for mentally ill or retarded children. The court may also place children under the supervision of the court's probation department; place children in the custody or care of foster homes, group homes, special treatment centers, or secure institutions.