Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I have to appear in court?

Yes. Juveniles and a parent/guardian must attend all court hearings in delinquency, unruly and traffic cases. It is advisable in all other types of cases that parties be present or risk decisions being made without their input.

How long will I be at Court?

The court tries to handle cases on time. Please check in 10 minutes before your scheduled time. There can be unexpected delays. It may be necessary for you and your child to meet with other court personnel following your court hearing. Please allow time in your schedule to be at court longer than you may expect. Your patience is appreciated.

How do I get my court date changed?

You must contact the clerk’s office and fill out a form requesting that your court date be continued. This must approved by the Judge in advance or you are expected to appear at your scheduled date and time. Requests for continuance must be made at least seven (7) days prior to the hearing.

What do I wear to court?

Appropriate dress is required for everyone conducting business with the court. The following list is a guide for dressing:

• No cut-off or short shorts
• No Hats
• Shirts required
• No midriff tops, no tank tops or strapless tops
• No offensive language or picture on clothing
• Shoes required
• No visible undergarments

Can someone other than my parent come to court?

The Court requires a parent/guardian to appear with a minor. Exceptions are made if the individual is 18 years or older when the hearing takes place.

Can I bring my other children with me to court?

Please arrange in advance for appropriate babysitting for younger children. Young children will not be permitted in the courtroom or unattended in the hallway unless at the discretion of the judge. Continuances will not be granted because you did not secure a babysitter.

What are the costs associated with coming to court?

See the complete [ fee schedule ]

Where do I go to file a motion?

All motions are filed at the Clerk’s Office of the Ottawa County Juvenile Court, located at 315 Madison Street, Port Clinton, Ohio 43452 (Third Floor).

Who would I contact to request a hearing?

Once a complaint or motion has been filed with the Juvenile Court, the clerks will schedule your case for hearing before the judge. You will receive a Notice of Hearing advising you when to appear at the court.

Do I have to have an attorney represent me in juvenile court proceedings?

No. While it may be preferable to have an attorney represent your interests in legal matters pending before the court, it is not required. However, if you choose not to have an attorney represent you, be mindful that court staff are prohibited from giving legal advise.

How can I determine if I qualify for a court appointed attorney?

An affidavit of financial disclosure can be picked up or completed at the juvenile court. This document should be filled out completely regarding all members of your household and then signed before a notary public. A review will then be made to determine if you qualify for court-appointed counsel.

How do I find an attorney?

You may contact the court for the name and telephone number of the current President of the Ottawa County Bar Association whom you may call for more information.

What is an arraignment?

After a complaint has been filed with the court alleging that a juvenile is delinquent, unruly, or has committed a traffic offense, the court sets the case for an arraignment. At this initial appearance, juveniles are present with their parents/custodians and are advised of the allegations contained in the complaint, their rights in the proceeding, and the possible consequences if adjudicated of the offense. Juveniles are asked to enter either an admission or denial to the allegations contained in the complaint. If denied, the matter is assigned for pretrial conference and/or an adjudicatory hearing at a later date.

What is a pretrial conference?

A pretrial conference is an opportunity for you and/or your attorney to meet with the prosecuting attorney or one of his assistant attorneys to discuss the allegations of the complaint and determine whether the case will be set for adjudication.

What does adjudication mean?

An adjudication is a finding that the court makes after the case has been heard. Once there is an adjudication, such as a child being adjudicated delinquent, unruly, abused, neglected or dependent, then the court has the authority to make appropriate orders with respect to the child and his/her parents.

When will the court reach a decision in my case?

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

What if I don’t agree with the court’s decision or judgment entry?

If a decision was issued by the magistrate, a party has fourteen (14) days from the date of that decision to file an objection. The judge may then adopt, reject or modify the magistrate’s decision, hear additional evidence, send the matter back to the magistrate with instructions or hear the matter. If the judge has issued a final judgment entry, then a party has thirty (30) days from the date of the entry to file an appeal with the Sixth District Court of Appeals.

What is the difference between a judge and a magistrate?

Both judges and magistrates are required to be lawyers. A judge is elected and a magistrate is appointed by the judge.

How do I file for custody or visitation?

The best way is to contact an attorney who will gather the information and put it in the correct format to file a Complaint for the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities with the Court. You may, however, choose to file a Pro Se Application on your own. If so, you must pick up a packet from the Court that includes basic instructions on completing the forms. You are responsible for supplying the name and address of any party that has an interest in the custody of the child such as a parent or current custodian of the child. The Court cannot act as your attorney. If you choose to file on your own, it will be up to you to try your own case and subpoena witnesses if necessary. You must also pay a filing fee of $125.00 in order to start a custody action.

Do I have to have a hearing to obtain custody of a child?

Yes. It is important to gather all the important information so the judge can make the decision that will be in the best interest of the child. Even if the parties involved agree about the outcome, the court must determine if all terms and provisions of an agreement are appropriate and in the best interest of the child.

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 usually set out in a court order. A child has the right to a relationship with both parents unless a court has specifically denied visitation.

What rights does a parent have under shared parenting?

A parent’s rights under shared parenting are set out in a shared parenting plan that is approved by a court.

What can I do if the other parent does not follow the court order?

A motion for contempt may be filed at the juvenile court if the other parent does not follow the court order.

If I am being denied visitation with my child by the custodian, how can I get visitation with my child?

Any legal problem that you have regarding your child should be referred to an attorney. If you wish to act as your own attorney, you should be advised that you do so at your own risk and that this court cannot provide you with legal advice. Upon your request, if you wish to proceed without an attorney, the court will provide you with a packet containing forms that you can prepare and file to request visitation with your child.

What is the difference between a Grandparent Power of Attorney, legal custody, and a guardianship of a minor?

A Grandparent Power of Attorney is signed by a parent giving a grandparent care and control of a grandchild, which includes the authority to:

  • enroll the grandchild in school;
  • obtain education and behavioral information about the grandchildren from the school district;
  • consent to all school-related matters regarding the grandchild; and
  • consent to medical, psychological or dental treatment for the grandchild.

Legal custody gives the custodian the right and responsibility to have physical care and control of a child, subject to the rights of parents.

A guardianship of a minor is granted by the Probate Court. It allows the guardian to provide care and control of the child, subject to the approval and oversight of the Court.

How do I establish paternity?

A mother or biological father should contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency in the county where they are residing and initiate an administrative proceeding to establish paternity. In Ottawa County, the Child Support Enforcement Agency is located at 8043 W. State Rte. 163, Suite 200, Oak Harbor, OH 43449. You may contact that office at 419-898-3688.

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.

I am a juvenile. How do I get emancipated?

There is no specific statute or court rule in the State of Ohio that specifically provides for a child to be considered an emancipated minor.

What is the difference between a juvenile court and an adult court?

A juvenile court holds youth accountable for their action while focusing on rehabilitating offenders and working with families to keep youth from re-offending. The goal is to reach young people early to prevent them from becoming involved with the adult justice system. In most cases, juvenile offenders do not have jury trials, or the ability to post bond.

What are the ages of the youth who come into Court?

Any child under the age of 18 is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The average age is 15.

What is disposition?

This hearing determines what action shall be taken after adjudication concerning the child who is within jurisdiction of the Court. The Court considers the child’s previous record, relationship with the parents(s), school reports, and the child’s statements. Another consideration is the protection of the community from this type of behavior and whether such behavior will continue. The theme of rehabilitations is a key factor at this stage.

Disposition can be any one or more of the following:

  • Commitment to Department of Youth Services
  • In-home detention
  • Detention
  • Electronic monitoring
  • Diagnostic assessment and treatment
  • License suspension
  • Referral to court programs
  • Referral to other agencies
  • Out-of-home placement
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Intensive probation
  • Fines
  • Court costs

If my child is placed on probation, how long will it last?

The Probation Department utilizes a risk/needs instrument that a probation officer completes at the time a child is placed on probation. The assessment will, determine the child’s level of risk for re-offending. See Levels of Probation. It should be noted that each youth is re-evaluated every ninety days and after each new offense. Therefore, the length of time a youth is on probation varies.

When I turn 18, will I automatically be terminated from probation supervision?

No. A youth is not automatically removed from probation supervision at the age of 18. The Juvenile Court can maintain jurisdiction until the age of 21. However, if for any reason the youth would require detention as a result of a probation violation, the youth would be detained at the Ottawa County Detention facility rather than in the Sandusky County Juvenile Detention Center.

What offenses may result in detention?

A juvenile may be committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services if he/she commits a felony offense. In some cases, a felony juvenile offender will be given a suspended commitment on certain conditions. In those circumstances and for juveniles who commit misdemeanor offenses, detention may be ordered up to 90 days.

For “status offenses”, such as unruly and truancy charges, the juvenile is not usually subject to detention.

Since Ottawa County does not have a Juvenile Detention Center, where do youth go?

The juvenile court uses the Sandusky County Juvenile Detention Center in Fremont.

What happens after a youth enters the Juvenile Detention Center?

The youth is provided necessary services to include continued health care, education, recreational and leisure activities, if appropriate, as well as limited visits with parents, attorney, and probation officer. If necessary, crisis intervention will be provided.

Can I obtain information about a minor’s file by calling the court?

No, all information about a minor’s file is confidential.

Can I obtain information about my own child’s juvenile records?

If after answering identifying questions that would indicate you are the parent, the clerk would be able to provide limited information from the court file (such as next hearing date, name of attorney). The clerk will not provide detailed information regarding the nature of the proceedings. These types of questions should be referred to your attorney.

Are my juvenile records automatically sealed after I turn 18?

No. There are two mechanisms available with which to seal a juvenile record. The first is called expungement. An expungement of a record can be requested if the juvenile is not found delinquent or unruly of the offense for which they are charged, based upon the complaint filed. The second is called “seal” of record.

How do I get my records sealed?

A person may request that records be sealed six (6) months after the final court order in a case. Any outstanding court costs must be paid. There are certain felony offenses that cannot be sealed.

How long will my delinquent record be on file?

All delinquent records are reviewed for sealing or Expungement upon request. If an application is not made, the record remains on file with the court indefinitely.

What is community service?

A youth who is court ordered to perform a certain number of community services hours, who is at least 14 years of age but under 18 years of age, can satisfy the court – ordered community service by working (for no pay) at community worksites through the Community Service Program. The program director will determine which site is appropriate for you.

My child is involved in unruly behaviors. What can I do?

You can contact the Director of Probation at the court who will explain options available to you.

Explain Abuse/Neglect/Dependency Cases.

The juvenile court has the important charge of ensuring that the children of Ottawa County live in a safe and healthy environment. Through the Ottawa County Department of Job and Family Services, allegations of abuse and neglect are investigated and at times children are removed from their homes for their protection. Through various community agencies, parent(s) are provided with resources and services to help resolve the problems that made court involvement necessary. The Court oversees this process through an array of court hearings during the pendency of the case.

The ultimate goal of court involvement is to ensure the child has a safe and permanent home within one year. The Juvenile Court focuses on the best interest of the child when making its determinations in these matters. To this end, the Court appoints a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the child to represent the child’s best interests. Certain circumstances require the services of an Attorney/Guardian ad Litem.

In many cases, children are ultimately reunited with their parent(s): however, some situations require placement with relatives and/or eventual termination of parental rights.

What is a CASA Guardian Ad Litem?

CASA/Guardians Ad Litem are trained advocates who speak up for abused, neglected and dependent children in court. A CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem) is a trained community volunteer appointed to serve as a child’s advocate during the court process. The program’s mission is to provide every child who enters the court system as a result of allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency, with a trained community volunteer to advocate for what is in the child’s “best interest” by investigating, monitoring, and advocating on the child’s behalf.