You can find the answers to many common questions and an overview of some Court processes, services and procedures here.

Q. How do I find an attorney?

A party may be represented by counsel in all proceedings in Juvenile Court. If a party is indigent, a request may be made for counsel by contacting the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office located at 800 Broadway, 1st Floor, Monday-Friday between 8:30am and 3:30pm.

The Cincinnati Bar Association can provide a referral to an attorney. Go to www.cincybar.org or call 513-381-8359, the Attorney Referral Service direct line.

Q. How can I check on the status of my charge? Can I review case files?

Come to 800 Broadway during business hours (Weekdays 8:00am to 4:00 pm) with proper identification to request the information. Any party to the case may review the legal file.

Q. When will the Court reach a decision in my case?

Each case is decided on its own merit. A decision will be made after all parties have presented evidence and/or testimony.

Q. How are Judges assigned to cases?

Case assignment is determined by Ohio Supreme Court rules, which mandate that the cases are assigned randomly.

Q. How do I file an objection or an appeal?

You have several options depending upon what you are objecting to or appealing.

  1. Motion to Set Aside a Magistrate's Order: A party may file a written motion requesting that the Judge set aside a Magistrate's Order within ten days of the order being entered. The motion must state the specific reason(s) for the request. See Juv. R. 40(D)(2)(b) and Civ. R. 53(D)(2)(b).
  2. Objection to a Magistrate's Decision: A party may file written objections to a Magistrate's Decision within 14 days of the decision being entered. The objection must state the specific reason(s) for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, a party must provide a transcript of the proceedings, if available, within 30 days of filing the objection. See Juv. R. 40(D)(3)(b) and Civ. R. 53(D)(3)(b).
  3. A party shall not assign as error on appeal the Court's adoption of any factual finding or legal conclusion, whether or not specifically designated as a finding of fact or conclusion of law under Juv. R. 40(D)(3)(a)(ii), unless the party timely and specifically objects to that factual finding or legal conclusion as required by Juv. R. 40(D)(3)(b). See Juv. R. 40(D)(3)(b)(iv) and Civ. R. 53(D)(3)(b)(iv).
  4. Appeal of a Judge's Final Order or Judgment: A party may appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeals by filing a notice of appeal in the Juvenile Court Clerk's Office within 30 days of the order or judgment.

Q. Which charges are considered Category One offenses?

According to ORC 2151.26, Category One offenses include:

Aggravated Murder (ORC 2903.01)
Murder (ORC 2903.01)
Attempted Aggravated Murder (ORC 2923.02)

Q. Which charges are considered Category Two offenses?

According to ORC 2151.26, Category Two offenses include:

Voluntary Manslaughter (ORC 2903.03)
Kidnapping (ORC 2905.01)
Rape (ORC 2907.02)
Felonious Sexual Penetration (ORC 2907.12)
Aggravated Arson (ORC 2909.02)
Aggravated Robbery (ORC 2911.01)
Aggravated Burglary (ORC 2911.11)
Involuntary Manslaughter (ORC 2903.04 as F1)

Q. What are the lengths of DYS commitments?

They differ by seriousness of the charge and whether a firearm was involved, as shown in the following charts:

DYS Commitment Lengths (2151.355)
Felony 3, 4, & 5 Minimum 6 months Maximum age 21
Felony 2 Minimum 1 year Maximum age 21
Felony 1 (non-designated category) Minimum 1 year Maximum age 21
Felony 1 (designated Category Two Except Certain
Statutory Rapes & Felonious Sexual Penetration)
Minimum 1 to 3 years Maximum age 21
Attempted Aggravated Murder & Attempted Murder Minimum 6 to 7 years Maximum age 21
Aggravated Murder & Murder No minimum Maximum age 21

Additional Time for
Firearm Specification
 (Served consecutive and prior to underlying offense)
Had Firearm During Offense Additional 1 year Maximum age 21
Had and Displayed, Used, Brandished, or Indicated
Possession or Firearm
Additional 3 years Maximum age 21

Q. How can I be referred to the Intervention Unit?

You can be referred if you and your child meet the following criteria:

  1. You and your child reside in Hamilton County and you have legal custody or guardianship.
  2. Your child has no prior juvenile record in Hamilton County.
  3. The child is not currently in placement or on foster care status.
  4. The child is unruly, incorrigible or beyond your care, custody and control.

If you and your child meet these criteria, you can fill out a referral at the Juvenile Court Intake Office at The Youth Center, 2020 Auburn Avenue.

Q. What services do you provide?

We provide intervention, counseling services and parent support groups. When a referral is received, an Intervention Unit Counselor will contact you within 72 hours. Our intention is to schedule an appointment with you and your child within seven to ten days. On the date of the appointment, the problem will be discussed with you and your child, in an effort to find a workable solution. Our services are free to all Hamilton County residents.

Q. Will my child have a criminal record?

An incorrigible or unruly child is not processed officially. An incorrigible or unruly child must be referred to the Intervention Unit. An unruly child is not considered a criminal and does not acquire a criminal record.

Q. What if my child is a runaway?

A runaway child can receive an official complaint and a warrant. However, the case is referred to the Intervention Unit prior to an official Court hearing. A runaway complaint does go on your child's record, but it is identified as a status offense, not a criminal offense.

Q. What are some of the terms used in Juvenile Court?

You can view common Juvenile Court terms and their meanings here.

Q. What kind of juvenile violent crimes lead directly to adult Court?

Serious crimes such as homicides, robberies, sex offenses and burglaries.

Q. What happens if I don't pay my Court fines and costs?

Costs and fines do not go away unless they are paid. Juvenile Court has traditionally been responsive to the need of clients and allowed payment plans over a period of time. Costs and fines are debts just like any other financial obligation. Failure to pay fines and costs will prevent records being sealed or expunged.

Q. How do I get emancipated?

In Ohio, a juvenile is considered emancipated when he or she gets married, joins the military or reaches the age of majority (18).

Q. How can I get my juvenile record sealed or expunged?

Because you were charged with an offense as a juvenile, Ohio law allows you to have your juvenile record sealed or expunged. The following is an explanation of the process that you must follow to seal or expunge your record.

  1. You may apply to this Juvenile Court for an order to seal your record two years after any order made by the Court has ended. If you have been placed in a juvenile institution or other facility, you may not apply until two years after you have received an unconditional discharge from such institution or facility.
  2. "Seal a record" means to remove a record from the main file of similar records and to secure it in a separate file that contains only sealed records, accessible only to the Juvenile Court.
  3. Applying to seal your record doesn't automatically mean that it will be sealed. The Juvenile Court must find that you have been rehabilitated to a satisfactory degree. If your offense was aggravated murder, murder, rape, sexual battery or gross sexual imposition, your record cannot be sealed.
  4. If your record is sealed by the Juvenile Court and someone asks you if you have a record, you may properly reply that no record exists. If asked, the Court will also reply that no record exists.
  5. After your record has been sealed, your record will automatically be expunged after a period of five years or when you reach age 23, whichever occurs sooner. You may apply to the Juvenile Court to have your sealed record expunged sooner.
  6. How is expunging a record different from sealing a record? Expunging a record means to destroy, delete and erase a record, as appropriate for the record's physical or electronic form or characteristic. This means that the record is permanently irretrievable.
  7. You may obtain an application to either seal or expunge your record from the Juvenile Court Clerk's Office at 800 Broadway, Cincinnati, Ohio. That is also the location to file the application after you have finished filling it out.
  8. You may wish to read portions of the Ohio Revised Code, § 2151.355, 2151.356, 2151.357 and 2151.358 for further details, available at most libraries and on the internet.

Q. What is the difference between a Judge and a Magistrate?

Judges are elected and Magistrates are appointed by the Judge.

Q. What kinds of cases do the Judges hear?

Three types of cases:

  1. Cases referred by the Magistrates where it appears that a juvenile may need to be institutionalized in a secure facility operated by the state or for possible relinquishment of jurisdiction to the adult Court.
  2. Cases where a party has objected to the decision of a Magistrate.
  3. Adult cases where there is a possibility of jail time (misdemeanors and contempt).

Q. What are the qualifications to become a Judge or Magistrate?

Judges and Magistrates are required to be lawyers in good standing.

Q. What is mediation?

Mediation is a problem-solving process in which a neutral person, the mediator, assists parties in discussing issues. The mediator helps parties understand each other's needs. Then parties discuss options for an agreement.

Q. How does mediation work?

If mediation is appropriate, the Court schedules a mediation session and provides a mediator. The mediator guides the communication process so that all parties have a chance to speak. Issues are discussed one at a time, along with possible solutions to each issue. The mediator does not decide the outcome. A decision is reached only if all parties agree to it.

Q. What are the benefits of mediation?

Parties make a plan rather than have the Court decide the case. Mediation is a process that gives parties the opportunity to settle issues in a way that fits their situation. All parties must agree to what is decided.

Q. Do I need an attorney?

An attorney is not necessary to participate in mediation. However, if you have an attorney and would like an attorney to accompany you to the mediation, please feel free to do so. Mediation involves legal decisions and can affect important legal rights. Attorneys help their clients understand the law and make informed decisions. The mediator focuses on the process and cannot give legal advice. People involved in mediation may consult with an attorney at any time.

Q. How long is a mediation session?

A mediation session is scheduled for three and a half hours, but may take less time, depending upon the parties. During the course of the mediation, the mediator may speak privately with some parties or ask certain participants to meet separately on specific issues. Mediation is usually completed in one session. A second session may be scheduled depending upon the complexity of the issues and whether parties need to gather more information.

Q. Is the mediation agreement legally binding?

When the mediation agreement is signed by both parties, it will be forwarded to the Court to be signed by the Magistrate and Judge. The sections of the agreement which are signed by the Magistrate and Judge are binding and enforceable by law.

Q. What happens if an agreement is reached?

The parties appear before a Magistrate, who has final approval of the agreement and signs the document referred to as an entry.

Q. What happens if an agreement is not reached?

A Magistrate or Judge conducts a Court hearing and makes the final decision. The outcome is no longer in the control of the parties, but in that of the Court.

Q. Is mediation confidential?

Statements made during mediation are generally confidential. No person may disclose a statement made during mediation. However, there is a duty to report to appropriate authorities new information about child or elderly abuse, felonies or threats of harm.

Q. What rights does a man have if he has not been found to be the child's father?

A father's rights and obligations toward a child born outside of marriage begin only when paternity is legally established. Paternity can be established in a number of ways.

Q. How do I establish paternity?

Paternity may be established in a number of ways:

1. Both the mother and father sign an affidavit of paternity and register it with the Central Paternity Registry.

2. Initiate an action through the Child Support Enforcement Agency. Information and assistance can be obtained at HCJFS / CSEA, 222 East Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45202, 513-946-1000 or www.hcjfs.hamilton-co.org.

3. File a paternity complaint in Juvenile Court.

Q. If I am alleged to be the father of a child, how can I make sure the child is mine?

A DNA test is the best available scientific means to determine a parent/child relationship. Parties can use private services for testing. If the Court has established paternity, you may file a motion in accordance with Ohio Civil Rule 60B (or Ohio Revised Code 3111.16, if it is more than two years after the Court established paternity) to request genetic testing.

Q. How do I get my name on the birth certificate?

This is normally done automatically at the time of birth when an acknowledgement of paternity is signed. A parent/child relationship will otherwise need to be established, either administratively or by Court order, and a certified copy of the order may be required before the Bureau of Vital Statistics can make a change to the birth certificate. Forms for this are available in the Clerk's Office.

Q. Do parties have a right to a lawyer in a paternity or support case?

Yes, all parties have a right to counsel in all Juvenile Court cases. The Prosecutor's Office represents the CSEA in paternity and child support cases. The Public Defender's Office will represent the person responsible for paying support, if he or she has been charged with contempt of Court and is eligible.

Q. If we get back together, what happens to the child support obligation?

If you get back together with the other parent, the child support order will continue until the Court terminates it. A motion and Court hearing are usually required.

Q. How do I get my support order modified, reduced or terminated?

Court orders may be changed by the issuance of another order or decision, which will be considered in a hearing in response to a motion.

Q. What happens if I don't pay support?

Failure to comply with an order of the Court could result in a finding of contempt and could involve financial penalties and/or incarceration.

Q. How do I get my license reinstated if non-payment of support is the reason it was suspended?

It would be best to ask the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) Child Support Technician to see what they require in order to release the license suspension. Consult an attorney or legal professional for advice and options.

Q. What is the difference between a bond and a purge?

A bond is a means to insure a defendant's appearance in Court. Failure to comply with the terms of the bond could result in the forfeiture of the bond and a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. A purge is a payment that is made to purge or exonerate a contempt finding.

Q. How do I file a petition for custody or visitation?

Juvenile Court will accept filings for custody and/or visitation orders. Packets for filing are available on this website under the Forms page.

Packets are also available in the Clerk's Office. The packets will contain the forms needed and some general instructions, along with a checklist of what is required by Rule. There is a filing fee required to be paid with any custody or visitation action filed, unless you can document your indigency.

Q. What determines in which county one should file custody and visitation actions?

There are always exceptions to every rule, but generally, one would file in the Court that issued a previous order or decision concerning custody or visitation. If there is no previous order, one would file in the county where the child has resided for the previous six months.

Q. What is the difference between custody and guardianship?

The terms are very similar by definition, but Juvenile Court is only involved in "custody" issues for children. Guardianship can be over an adult as well as a child, and is a term used more by Probate Court. You may want to consult with an attorney for a more in-depth definition.

Q. If one parent has legal custody, does the other parent have any rights?

Even if one parent has legal custody, the other parent still has parental rights. Those rights are set out in a Court order. A child has the right to a relationship with both parents unless a Court has specifically denied visitation.

Q. How do I terminate my parental rights or the rights of my child's other parent?

Parental rights are usually terminated when another person adopts the child or the Court has found that the child is abused, neglected or dependent. You may want to contact an attorney for more information.

Q. What can I do if I do not get my visitation that the Court ordered?

You should consider asking an attorney what options you may have. If you believe the other party is in contempt of the Court order, you may file a motion for a contempt finding. Filing fees will need to be addressed and a hearing will be scheduled to address the motion.

Q. Why is it necessary to notify an absent or unknown parent of a pending hearing or Court action when he or she has had no part in the child's life?

This is required by the Ohio Rules of Court, specifically, the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Q. What rights does a parent have under joint custody?

A parent's rights under joint custody are set out in a shared parenting order that is approved by the Court.

Q. How do I get shared parenting or joint custody?

Because of the multitude of issues involved in shared parenting, it is best to contact an attorney to advice you on this process.

Q. How can a child's last name be changed?

A child's last name can be changed by agreement in the CSEA administrative hearing, if both parents agree. If a paternity adjudication is made in Juvenile Court, you may request the Court to order the change at that time. You may also want to check with Probate Court to see if they may be of assistance. Probate Court, 230 East 9th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, 513-946-3600, www.probatect.org.

Q. What can I do if the other parent does not follow the Court order?

You can file a motion for contempt in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Clerk's Office if the other parent does not follow the Court order.

Q. What is a Probation Officer?

An individual sworn in as an Officer of the Court whose role is to investigate, understand, plan for and supervise individuals assigned to him/her by the Court with the purpose of insuring community safety and reducing their risk to recidivate.

Q. What are the qualifications to become a Probation Officer?

The preferred minimum qualifications for a Probation Officer consist of a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, Social Work or related field and two years of paid work related experience. Must be at least 21 years of age. Must possess auto liability insurance. Use of personal automobile is required to perform field activities. Must pass extensive background screening process, including a drug screen and polygraph exam.

Q. What is the role of a Probation Officer?

Per ORC 2151.14 Probation Officers shall keep informed concerning the conduct and condition of each person under its supervision and shall report on their conduct and condition to the judge as the judge directs. Each probation officer shall use all suitable methods to aid persons on community control and to bring about improvement in their conduct and condition.

This work is done by the completion of a thorough investigation, which includes a thorough review and the individuals background, completion of risk assessment, other evaluations as needed and then compiling that information into a supervision plan which addresses identified needs as well as community safety. The Officer then monitors the Probationer's adjustment and compliance with the plan and addresses issues as they arise.

Q. Who staffs the Probation Department?

The Probation Department is managed by the Chief Probation Officer who is appointed by the Juvenile Court Judges. Two Deputy Chief Probation Officers oversee the daily operation of the department through direct and indirect supervision of staff. Team Supervisors directly manage the day to day work of the department through the assignment of cases, supervision of Support Staff and Probation Officers.

Q. What should I know about Traffic Court?

You should know:

Right to an Attorney: You have the right to be represented by an attorney at any Court hearing. You may request a continuance to get an attorney. If you choose not to have an attorney today, your case will processed today.

Entering a Plea: If you waive your right to have an attorney present today, you will be asked to admit or deny the charge. A plea of No Contest is not authorized and therefore cannot be accepted.

Denial: If you deny the charge, the case will be continued to another date for a trial. At that time, the prosecutor will present the evidence against you. You may bring and/or subpoena witnesses. The hearing will be conducted pursuant to the Rules of Evidence and Juvenile Procedure. The magistrate will decide if the charge has been proven, after hearing the evidence.

Admission: If you admit the charge today, you give up these rights: the right to hear and question the witnesses against you; the right to remain silent; the right to present witnesses in your own behalf. If you admit the charge, you will be adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender. This is similar to an adult being found guilty of a traffic offense.

Consequences: If you are found to be a Juvenile Traffic Offender after a trial or after an admission, the Magistrate will determine the disposition for your violation. These dispositions, or consequences, are not the same as for adults. Some of the possible consequences are summarized below.

Q. Where do I go to pay my traffic ticket?

A juvenile and a parent or guardian must come to Court for a hearing. Juvenile traffic tickets cannot be paid out without a hearing.

Q. What are the possible penalties?

Possible penalties include:

General: In most cases, the magistrate or judge has the authority to impose: a fine of up to $50; Court Costs of $140 (Moving Violations) or $116 (Non-Moving Violations); a suspension of your driver's license; a suspension of the registration to all motor vehicles registered in your name; an order placing you on probation, work detail, or electronic monitoring; and an order for restitution for damages.

Additional consequences for certain violations are described below.

Parental Accompaniment: If you are adjudicated as a Juvenile Traffic Offender for having committed a moving violation within six months of having been issued your probationary driver's license, and you are still 16 years old, the BMV will send you a letter informing you that a restriction will be placed on your license which only permits you to drive if accompanied by a parent or a guardian for the next six months or until you reach age 17, whichever comes first. If you or a parent reasonably believes that the restriction will seriously affect your ability to continue employment or educational training or will cause undue hardship on you or a family member, you or your parent may request at the time of the court hearing, occupational or educational driving privileges without you being accompanied by a parent.

Second Moving Violation: If you are adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender for a second moving violation occurring before age 18, your driver's license must be suspended for a minimum of 90 days. If you request, the Court may grant you limited driving privileges during the specified suspension period if the Court finds reasonable cause to believe the suspension will seriously affect your ability to continue employment, educational training, vocational training or treatment.

Third Moving Violation: If you are adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender for a third moving violation occurring before age 18, your driver's license must be suspended for a minimum of one year. If you request, the Court may grant you limited driving privileges during the specified suspension period if the Court finds reasonable cause to believe the suspension will seriously affect your ability to continue employment, educational training, vocational training or treatment.

Moving violation while driving under limited driving privileges: If you are adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender for a moving violation occurring before age 18 and were driving under limited driving privileges, your license shall be suspended for one year by the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) and NO driving privileges are permitted by law.

How to obtain your license if it is suspended: If your driver's license is suspended by the Court and you obtain limited driving privileges, the Court will keep your license on file and give you a paper detailing the purpose, time and place of your limited driving privileges. If your driver's license is suspended and the Court does not give you limited driving privileges, you will be notified by the BMV as to the conditions that must be fulfilled before you are able to obtain your license.

Driving Under the Influence: If you are adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs under O.R.C. 4511.19(A), you may be committed to a detention or other facility up to 5 days. You may be required to successfully complete the Adolescent Driver's Intervention Program (ADIP), a three-day, two-night residential program. A license suspension is mandated by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. A typical suspension ordered by the Court for this offense is 1 year with no occupational driving privileges. You may also be fined up to $225. After the suspension period, you may reapply for a license after you have successfully completed both a Driver Improvement Program and a drug/alcohol abuse education or treatment program; and successfully retaken the Driver's License Examination and have paid a reinstatement fee to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

If you are adjudicated a Juvenile Traffic Offender for a charge of Driving Under Suspension, Drag Racing, Eluding a Police Officer, or Leaving the Scene of an Accident, your Driver's License may be suspended by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It cannot be returned to you until the suspension is served and you have posted a financial responsibility bond (high risk insurance). You may also be fined up to $225.

If your ticket is marked "FR NOT SHOWN," (Financial Responsibility) you must present proof of insurance coverage to the Court.

Q. How do I get driving privileges if the Court or school initiated the suspension?

If the Court suspends your license and circumstances change regarding need for privileges, you can direct a written request to the Magistrate for consideration. If the suspension is initiated through a school, you would file a motion for reinstatement, address a $50.00 filing fee and present your request at a hearing before a Judge.

Q. What is Unofficial Court?

Unofficial means that you will not have a permanent juvenile record. A juvenile has only one opportunity to have a case heard in Unofficial. It's a one-time chance. You have the option to have an attorney during an Unofficial hearing, although it is not necessary.

Q. What's the difference between Official and Unofficial?

Official Unofficial
Obtain record No permanent record
May have multiple hearings (continuances, pleas, etc.) One hearing permitted at this level

Q. How long does it take for the hearing?

Hearings are scheduled in fifteen-minute intervals. However, each hearing is different, and some hearings may take longer. Timeframes vary on a day-to-day basis.

Q. Who is eligible to have a hearing in Unofficial?

A juvenile under the age of eighteen with a first-time minor offense in Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Q. When can I provide my victim impact statement to the Court?

The victim may give a statement to a Probation Officer assigned to the defendant in person, by phone or by replying to a letter send by the probation department. This statement is presented to the Court during the offender's dispositional hearing. The Magistrate or Judge makes a decision based on all factors involved in the case.

Q. Do I have to be present in Court to make my statement?

A victim is not required to make a statement in person. In most cases, a Probation Officer contacts the victim and takes his or her statement by phone. If a victim feels more comfortable making the statement in person, arrangements can be made to accommodate the victim.

Q. What precautions can I take to keep the offender away from me?

A victim who feels in danger of retaliation from an offender can request a stay away order as part of the victim's impact statement. A stay away order is Court-ordered by the Judge or Magistrate. It specifies how long the offender is required to stay away from the victim. If the victim chooses to attend the Court hearing, the victim can ask the Judge or Magistrate for a stay away order.

Q. When will I receive restitution for my losses resulting from the crime?

Restitution is a disposition imposed by the Court that requires the offender to pay for any loss, damage or injury not covered by insurance.

  1. The victim should outline all losses to the Probation Officer to include on the statement.
  2. The victim will be notified to submit proof of damages by the Court's Restitution Coordinator. The victim should either mail or deliver the paper receipts or estimates directly to the Restitution Coordinator.
  3. The victim will receive restitution after the Court's final hearings, as money is collected from the juvenile.

Q. If the offender is committed to the Department of Youth Services, can I be informed of his or her release?

Victims of crime are encourages to participate in Ohio's VINE service. VINE (Victims' Information and Notification Everyday) is a free, anonymous, computer-based service that provides victims of crime important information and notification. VINE notifies the victim about the offender's status while the offender is incarcerated in ODYS. When the offender is released, victims are notified automatically. To receive information on the VINE program, please call 614-644-6416 or go to http://dys.ohio.gov/Community-Programs/Office-of-Victim-Services.

Q. What types of counseling programs do you offer?

The Hamilton County Juvenile Victims Unit offers a variety of information to victims of crime. However, the Victims Unit does not provide counseling. The Victims Unit offers brochures and pamphlets on crimes such as sexual abuse, and on general mental health, substance abuse and grief counseling.