Journal Issue: The Juvenile Court Volume 6 Number 3 Winter 1996
In many jurisdictions and particularly the larger metropolitan areas, the juvenile court of the future will probably exist within a different court structure. The result should be an improved relationship between the juvenile court and other divisions of the court which address issues relating to children and families, such as domestic relations, child custody, adoptions, and emancipation. (See the article by Rubin in this journal issue.)
Changes are likely to occur because of recognition that the current court structure serves neither courts nor litigants well. The American court system was created more than 200 years ago, principally for the resolution of civil and criminal matters. With the dramatic growth of juvenile and family court cases over the past two decades, scholars, judges, and administrators have reexamined court structure to determine how adequately it serves the legal problems facing children and families today.1
In many ways, it does not. A family may have several related legal problems which, under the existing judicial structure, are heard by different judges in different courts at different times and places. For example, a domestic relations court may award custody to one parent only to have a juvenile court remove the child from that parent and make a different custodial order. A family may have to go to one judge for paternity determination or child support enforcement, to another to determine the child's delinquency status, to another for a restraining order in a domestic violence case, and still another to receive a custody order. Such a system requires families to return to the courthouse many times, strains both court and litigant resources, and maximizes the possibility that court orders will be in conflict with one another.