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Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

This article describes the process for Juvenile court jurisdiction including the deferral of deprived court jurisdiction. The juvenile court handling a case in which a child is alleged to have been deprived, abused, or neglected (“deprived court”) has exclusive jurisdiction over the child and his/her parents as long as the deprived case remains open. This means the deprived court’s jurisdiction includes paternity and child support issues since these directly involve the child and his/her parents. The deprived court should either proceed with paternity and child support actions or defer its jurisdiction to the appropriate administrative or district court family division so the other court may proceed with paternity and child support establishment or enforcement remedies. If jurisdiction has not been deferred, then no other court has jurisdiction to hear these matters while the deprived case is pending.

If a parent’s rights are terminated or relinquished in the deprived action, the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over that parent ends as of the date of the termination or relinquishment. The juvenile court still retains jurisdiction over the child.

In deprived cases, the District Attorney’s (D.A.) Office is responsible for serving all of the necessary parties with the deprived petition. The rules regarding service of process in juvenile cases is essentially the same as in “regular” cases and it is found in Section 1‐4‐304 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes. It is important to check with your local D.A. to make sure they include a prayer for paternity and child support order establishment in the deprived petition. It is also important to verify that the parties have been served before you request the court enter an order against them. You may verify that information by checking the juvenile court file or asking the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case.

Deferral of Deprived Court Jurisdiction

As explained, the juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction over the children and parents involved in a deprived proceeding. However, the court may defer its jurisdiction over certain issues during the deprived case. For example, courts often defer jurisdiction over custody disputes to the family division of the district court to allow the other court to make permanent custody determination. If the deprived court does not address the issue of paternity and/or child support order establishment within six months of the filing of the deprived petition, the deprived court must defer jurisdiction to the appropriate administrative or district court.

Deferring jurisdiction is an option for judges who do not want to turn their juvenile docket into a child support docket, or if the issue of child support is especially volatile or complicated. The practice in Oklahoma varies by county. In some counties, judges prefer to hear the paternity and child support issues in the deprived action. Other judges prefer to defer jurisdiction to expedite the process and manage their dockets more efficiently.

When judges defer jurisdiction, they may do so on a case‐by‐case basis or make an administrative order to address every case. Once the issue of jurisdiction is settled, Child Support Services (CSS) can proceed with its paternity and child support matters in the appropriate court. If jurisdiction was deferred by the juvenile court judge, it is important for the CSS office to determine the extent of the order deferring jurisdiction and observe any limitations imposed by the judge. Select for a sample order deferring jurisdiction. (hyperlink to Sample Order Deferring Jurisdiction.pdf)

There are advantages to deferring jurisdiction to either administrative or district court. One advantage of deferring jurisdiction is CSS can handle complex issues with which the deprived court may not wish to be involved. Also, any subsequent orders will have the child support case caption instead of a deprived court case caption. This protects confidentiality of the Child Welfare (CW) proceeding by eliminating reference to the CW case.

But there are advantages to adjudicating child support in the juvenile matter as well. Issues of paternity can be heard before the juvenile court judge to prevent genetic testing in instances where there is already a legal father. Also, modifications can be handled immediately when child support interferes with reunification efforts.

In the end, the juvenile court and CSS should work together to ensure the best possible outcome for children in OKDHS custody.