When Family Court Takes Over for Juvenile Court

Mother [M] and Father [F] never married, but were in an intimate relationship for seven years. From that relationship, their daughter [D] was born. D was three years old when the relationship ended in 2013.

The relationship ended for many reasons, but domestic violence was at the heart of it. For reasons that were never explained in the appellate court decision, the case was heard in juvenile court and not family court (superior court).

M requested the juvenile court provide her and D with a protective restraining order against F. The juvenile court granted the request preventing F from, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, destroying the personal property of, contacting, or disturbing the peace and required him to stay 100 yards from M and D, except for his visitation of D. The protective order was to expire three years later in 2016.

With the protective order in place, the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction of M’s case.

In 2016, M went in to family court (superior court) and requested that the restraining order be renewed. She and D were still in fear of F, and he had not complied with all of the juvenile court’s orders to have the restraining order removed (including attending anger management-type classes).

The family court read M’s brief (her written request) to have the order renewed, but determined it was not a renewal, but a request for a new domestic violence restraining order. However, the family court determined that it did not have the jurisdiction to renew the previous order, because it was issued in juvenile court.

M appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with M stating: “A ‘juvenile court’ is a superior court exercising limited jurisdiction arising under juvenile law… ‘Family court’ refers to the activities of one or more superior court judicial officers who handle litigation arising under the Family Code. It is not a separate court with special jurisdiction, but is instead the superior court performing one of its general duties… Both the juvenile court and the family court may issue protective orders to protect against domestic violence.”

The Appellate Court further stated: “When a Welfare and Institutions Code petition is filed in juvenile court, the juvenile court has jurisdiction to issue restraining orders until the petition is dismissed or the dependency is terminated. (Cal. Rules of Court, rules 5.620(b),5.630.) The jurisdiction of the juvenile court is not affected by the jurisdiction of the family court. (Fam. Code, §6221, subdivision. (b).) However, once the juvenile court terminates jurisdiction, the family court assumes jurisdiction over restraining orders issued in juvenile court.”

Lastly, the Appellate Court returned the case to the Family Court (superior court) to determine whether to renew the juvenile court protective order, or to determine if a new protective order should be implemented.

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