Parental Rights and Responsibilities of Juvenile Offenders in Texas
In 1973 the legislature of Texas sanctioned a Family Code that formed a legal basis for juvenile law in the state. This family code was enacted with several goals in mind. These goals include care and development of the child, when to separate the child from a parent, and how to find needed care for the child, among other things.
Below we will outline the specific responsibilities and rights of parents in accordance with the juvenile law in Texas.
Orders against Parents
In some cases, a juvenile court can order a parent or guardian to do or not do certain things. These things include:
- Making restitution
- Paying probation fees
- Paying graffiti eradication fees
- Performance of community service
- Payment of court costs
- Participate in counseling
- Pay attorney fees
- Prevention of contact between parent and child
- Attend court hearings
- Pay educational costs
- Act (or refrain) in helping the juvenile comply with conditions of release
- Pay deferred prosecution fees
Juvenile court judges have the ability to enter orders against a guardian or parent for issues that are not included in the aforementioned list. Child support is something that is not contained in this code.
The entry of orders against parents requires several steps to be met. The court must provide the parent or guardian with these orders:
- Sufficient notice of court hearings, in writing or orally
- Sufficient chance to be heard on the matter at hand
All orders must be in writing and promptly given to the parent. Parents or guardians have the right to appeal any juvenile court order. The appeal can’t affect the juvenile process in the court that involves the child.
Enforcement of Orders
If an order has been made against a parent or guardian and they fail to follow the order, a written motion will be filed for enforcement. The enforcement of order against parents must include:
- An identification of the violation
- Specifics on how the guardian or parent failed to meet the order
- State the type of relief requested
- Signature of parties filing the motion
Every alleged violation must be limited to one motion. The judge can order contempt charges if the said order is not filed any later than the juvenile’s eighteenth birthday by six months. It is also law that the guardian or parent receive a written notice with the time, date and place of the hearing, and must personally attend the court hearing. If the guardian fails to appear in court, a judge could order an arrest warrant. The parent is entitled to legal representation at this point.
Before a guardian can be found in contempt of court, a judge must make a number of findings. These findings include:
- Beyond a reasonable doubt a judge has to make a determination that a violation of the motions for enforcement has occurred
- The hearing will be conducted without a jury and by law; a parent or guardian does not have to testify at the hearing
In the case of an affirmative defense, the parent or guardian has to prove in a court hearing a preponderance of evidence; this is the common standard of proof that is needed in civil cases.
If there is an affirmative defense, the parent is putting forth that the judge did not provide due process during the court hearing when the order was entered. There can also be an affirmative defense if there is an inability to pay court costs, restitution, supervision fees, or any other type of payment ordered by the court. In this case, proof has to be brought before the judge that funds cannot be reasonably paid after payment of living expenses.
If a judge does find a parent in contempt of court, any of these situations may be imposed:
- Six months in jail
- Fine of up to $500.00
- A combination of jail and fine
- An order to comply with future court orders
- An assigned juvenile probation officer can assist in compliance orders
- A judge can also reduce jail or fines or reduce the burden of compliance before the obligations have been fully completed
There are specific rights granted to a parent or guardian within the juvenile justice process. Here is the list of rights that the parent has in accordance with the court:
- The time and date the juvenile was taken into custody
- The time and date of the specific offense
- The specific name of the offence and the penal category it falls under
- The specifics of property damaged or taken and the extent of this damage, if any
- The specific weapon used, if applicable
- Any physical injuries, if applicable, that occurred to the victim
- Description of the offense if it is related to gang activity
- If the child has been taken into custody with other juveniles or adults and the names of those people
- If there was drugs or alcohol involved
- If the juvenile was sent to detention, what is the policy on visitation as it applies to the juvenile in question
- The rights of the child to be represented by a lawyer or court appointed attorney
- All aspects of the court process that apply directly to the juvenile
- The methods with which the guardian can aid the child in the legal process
The juvenile probation department is required to provide the above information and should be available from law enforcement when the referral is made. If the child is released into the custody of the parent, this information can be disclosed by telephone, in person or in writing. Any disclosed information is not considered admissible in court as evidence that can be used to impeach a witness or to be used as substantive evidence.
There are also rights the parent has in regards to access to the child who has been taken into custody. These include:
- A secure detention center
- Juvenile processing center
- Secure correctional center
- Court ordered placement
- Custody of TJJD
All of these rights belong to the parent, not the child, and may not be used by any party, including the juvenile as grounds for appeal, a writ of habeas corpus or exclusion of evidence.
You can learn more about the juvenile justice system in Texas by viewing our page on juvenile defense in Texas.