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Texas Juvenile Law: Rights of Parents

Posted by attorney Leigh De La Reza

This information applies specifically to Texas juvenile law. The role of the parent in the juvenile justice system may at times appear paradoxical. The fundamental rights of the parent to the care, custody and nurture of the child are frequently in conflict with the state’s parental role over the welfare of children represented in the doctrine “parents patriae." Generally, a parent has a variety of basic rights, including the right to physical possession of the child, the right to establish the residence of the child, the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child, right to represent the child in legal actions, and the right to make other decisions of legal significance concerning the child. The Texas Family Code, however, authorizes the court to supplant these rights as a result of delinquent behavior of a child. Under the law, both parents and children are responsible for the conduct of the delinquent child. §51.01(2)(C) underlines that one of the goals of the juvenile justice code is to provide “rehabilitation that emphasizes accountability and responsibility of both the parent and the child for the child’s conduct."

Access to the Child Parents under §61.103 are given a right to access their child in person privately for a reasonable period of time while the child is in: 1. a juvenile processing office, 2. a secure detention facility, 3. a secure correctional facility, 4. a court-ordered placement facility, or 5. the custody of the Texas Youth Commission.

The detaining authority may control the time, place, and conditions of the visitation.

Notification requirements The juvenile’s parents are required to be promptly notified when a child is taken into custody under §52.02(b). The parent is also allowed to know the reason the child was taken into custody. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in exclusion of any statement obtained from custodial interrogation. Section 52.025(c) provides that the child may not be left unattended in a juvenile processing office and is entitled to be accompanied by the child’s parent, guardian, or other custodian or the child’s attorney. If police were to prevent a parent from being present with his or her child in a juvenile processing office, a court would be expected to suppress any statement resulting from interrogation obtained in violation of that right. Attorney-Client Privilege Although the Family Code §51.02(10) provides “Parties" to include children and their parents, the attorney-client privilege exists only between the child and his or her attorney. The attorney-client privilege does not include communications with the juvenile’s parent. Attendance at Court Hearings Parents are required under §51.115 of the Texas Family Code, to attend each hearing affecting the child held under §54.02 (wavier of jurisdiction), §54.03 (adjudication hearing), §54.04 (disposition hearing), §54.05 (hearing to modify disposition), §54.11 (release or transfer hearing). Notice and Summons. The parent is entitled to reasonable written or oral notice. Parents are also required to be summoned to appear in court. §53.06(a) provides the juvenile court shall issue a summons to the child and parent, guardian, or custodian. Subsection (e) allows a party to waive service of summons by a written stipulation or voluntary appearance in court. Failure to attend hearings The juvenile court may proceed on the case if the parent fails to appear with the child. The court has authority to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child to represent the best interest of the child. A parent who fails to attend the hearing may be punished by the court for contempt by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. The court may also order the parent to attend counseling or educational courses on the duties and responsibilities of parents and skills and techniques in raising children.

Addressing the Court The parent is provided an opportunity to address the court both in writing and orally. Parental written statements. Every parent who is summoned must be provided with a parental written statement form. The parental written statement is returned to the juvenile probation department and then transmitted to the court. Decisive roles in court. There are some proceedings where parents play a decisive role. Under the Family Code §53.03(2) deferred prosecution requires consent by the child, and his parent, guardian, or custodian. Detention hearings, outlined in §54.01(e)(2), may also look to the parent for suitable supervision, care, and protection as a criteria for releasing the juvenile. Disposition and modification The parent’s role in disposition and modification hearings is also important. §54.04(c) mandates, “No disposition placing the child on probation outside the child’s home may be made under this section unless the court or jury finds that the child, in the child’s home, cannot be provided the quality of care and level of support and supervision that the child needs to meet the conditions of the probation."

However, for many juvenile residential treatment programs, parents must be willing to cooperate and participate in counseling programs as a requirement for admittance. Children of parents who are not cooperative may find the county has run out of placement options much sooner resulting in an earlier commitment to TYC. Parental role in appeals In addition to court proceedings, parents also play an important role in appeals. In re A.M.M. held that both the parent and the child must be on record requesting an appeal. The court cited §56.01(f), “if the child and his parent…express a desire to appeal." Law enforcement reports The list of parental rights found in §61.102(a), however, is not comprehensive. For example, parents are not given a right to review police reports. The Attorney General ruled in a Public Information Act opinion that the confidentiality restrictions of juvenile law enforcement records apply even to a request to see a record made by the parents of the juvenile who is named in the record. Child support orders

A parent may be ordered to pay the court a reasonable sum for the support of the child in whole or in part under §54.06. The support is to be used for the payment of residential care and other support for the child, unless the child has been committed to the Texas Youth Commission, in which case the payment is to be deposited in a special account in the general revenue fund that may be appropriated only for the care of children committed to the commission. The court is authorized, under subsection (c), to enforce an order for support by garnishing wages or other means. Orders of child support issued by the juvenile court in this manner prevail over other child support orders. Orders Directed at Parents

There are several provisions which authorize the court to issue orders directed at the parents to compel the parent to act, refrain from acting, or penalize a parent who refuses to cooperate with the court. Under §61.002(a) the juvenile court has the authority to issue orders against a parent or other eligible person requiring the person to act or refrain from acting. Additionally, the juvenile court may issue an order requiring the parent or other eligible person to:

  1. Pay for probation fees,
  2. restitution,
  3. payment for graffiti eradication fees,
  4. community service,
  5. court costs,
  6. refrain from doing any act injurious to the welfare of the child,
  7. enjoin contact between the person and the child,
  8. order a person living in the household to participate in counseling,
  9. participate in truancy programs,
  10. pay for attorney fees
  11. reimburse court for attorney fees
  12. deferred prosecution
  13. attend court hearings
  14. act or refrain from acting to aid the child in complying with conditions of release.
  15. The legislature then included a catch-all provision in subsection (15) that references any omitted provision of Title 3 that fits its criteria or that may later be enacted.

§61.002(b) excludes child support orders because their enforcement is already dealt with by the comprehensive tools available under Title 5.

Conditions of release orders

The juvenile court may impose obligations and restrictions on parents pre-adjudication. In 2003, the legislature authorized a judge, referee, or detention magistrate upon releasing a child conditionally from detention to order “that the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian present in court at the detention hearing engage in acts or omissions specified by the court, complying with the conditions of release.

Restitution orders.

Conflicts may occur when parents do not want to pay for damages done by their children. Under §54.041, the court is allowed to consider what amount of restitution, if any, should be paid to a victim of a crime committed by a juvenile and it may be issued against the juvenile or the parents. The parents have the burden of proof that they used good faith efforts to prevent the juvenile’s behavior if they want to escape liability.

Likewise, §54.044(b) authorizes the court to order to child’s parent to perform community service with the child. Presumably, parents are required to participate in the same community service project as the child unless, under subsection (g) the court finds the parents have made reasonable good faith efforts to prevent the child from engaging in delinquent conduct.

Enforcement of orders.

Orders directed at parents are enforced under §61.051(a) Any party may file a motion for enforcement of a juvenile court parental order. There is a mandatory joinder of all allegations of parental order violations, because a court may impose only one punishment for all violations adjudicated from a single motion. There is a six-month grace period for allegations of violations and they may be filed anytime until six-months after the child’s 18th birthday.

Additional resources provided by the author

Texas Family Code
Robert Dawson Juvenile Law
Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
Juvenile Law Section

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