Childrens - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Juvenile Court and Family Court?

Both courts are involved with children and families. Juvenile court handles matters such as juvenile protective services, children in need of protection, termination of parental rights,  adoptions, guardianship, and crimes committed by children (delinquency cases). Family courts handle matters such as divorces, legal separations, annulments, child support, custody, visitation, and paternity.

What is the Juvenile Justice Code?

Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 938 describes the duties counties have to provide delinquency services, lists of types of dispositions a court may make, and describes the rights of juveniles in delinquency cases.

How is Juvenile defined in Wisconsin?

According to WI State s938.02(10m), “a person who is less than 18 years of age, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, does not include a person who has attained 17 years of age.”

Are Juvenile cases and records confidential?

Juvenile proceedings are confidential, meaning that the public is excluded from most hearings and only certain people can view juvenile records, usually with a judge's permission. There are times, however, when the court proceedings may be open to the public pursuant to Wis. Statute 938.396.

Am I able to review a children’s court file?

Juvenile court information is NOT public information. Civilians who want to view information or a juvenile file MUST receive approval from a judge, and must complete an Authorization and Order to Open Court Records for Inspection. Probation, Pre-sentence Investigators, State Public Defenders, District Attorneys and Bureau workers must complete a Request to Inspect Juvenile Court Records. If the files are stored off-site, you are to complete the appropriate form, and await a phone call from our staff to come in and inspect the record after court approval

How may I obtain a certified copy of a court document?

Certified copies can be obtained upon request from the Clerk of Circuit Court located at 10201 West Watertown Plank Road Wauwatosa, WI 53226, Room 1530. The fees are $1.25 per page and $5.00 for the certification fee.

What are the legal rights of my child in juvenile court?

The Supreme Court ruled that juveniles have the right to know the allegations against them, to have legal representation, to question witnesses, protect themselves against self-incrimination, have a transcript of court proceedings or request, and have the right to appeal. In delinquency (law violations) situations, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial but can have a trial before the judge. 

What is a TPR – Termination of Parental Rights?

According to WI Statute 48.40(2), the severing of rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties and obligations existing between parent and child, pursuant to a court order, voluntarily or involuntarily in the best interest of the child

My child was a victim in a fight with another party. May I file a restraining order on behalf of my child?

Yes. Advocates from the Sojourner Family Peace Center will take you step-by-step through the process. Walk-ins are welcome, Monday through Friday at 9, 10, & 10:45 a.m., and 1 & 2 p.m. The whole process will take a few hours. You may contact the S.F.P.C. at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 North Ninth Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233, Room 711, Phone 278-5079, Fax 223-1807.

How do I get help if I am the victim of a crime committed by a juvenile?

You should contact Victim/Witness Services in the District Attorney’s Office and request information about the time and place of upcoming hearings by calling (414) 257-7725. Victims have a right to appear at any hearing, however, during discussions of sensitive personal matters involving the juvenile, you may be asked to leave. You have a right to make a statement to the court (Victim Impact Statement). You also have a right to obtain information about the outcome of the case. If you want further information about your case, you should contact a victim/witness specialist in the District Attorney’s Office.

How do delinquency cases get started in Juvenile Court?

A case usually begins with a complaint bought against a juvenile through a report filed by law enforcement. The police send most complaints to the Juvenile Intake Office after they have contact with a victim of a crime, or a threatened party. The complaint is reviewed by Juvenile Intake staff in Children’s Division and the District Attorney’s Office. The Intake Worker reviews the complaint/referral and works with the District Attorney’s Office to decide whether it is suitable for informal action (known as deferred prosecution agreement) or if it should be filed as a petition in Juvenile Court. If the petition is filed with the court, the hearing process will begin.

What is non-secure custody?

Unlocked. It is not as restricted as a secure facility, such as detention, and could be the home of a parent, relative or guardian, friend of the family, foster or group home, or a hospital.

Will my child have an attorney to help him? What if I can’t afford to hire one for him?

In all delinquency, CHIPS/JIPS cases, juveniles/children have the right to be represented by a lawyer. In delinquency/JIPS cases, juveniles/children aged 10 and older, and in CHIPS cases children aged 12 and older, will be appointed an attorney by the State Public Defender’s Office. The attorney will advocate for the juvenile during all states of the proceedings unless the juvenile wishes to continue without a lawyer and the Judge permits this. Children under the age of 10 and alleged to be JIPS and children under the age of 12 and alleged to be CHIPS will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney who will represent the best interest of the child.

Why does my child’s attorney say he/she cannot speak to me when I am paying for the representation?

Any child with pending charges in Juvenile Court has the right to be represented by counsel in all stages of Court proceedings. It is important for the child to be able to speak freely and honestly with his/her attorney so the attorney can provide the best counsel possible. It is also important that the attorney be able to respect the client/attorney trust by keeping conversations with the juvenile private. The attorney may only discuss general information with the parents due to this trust obligation.

What is a CHIPS?

CHIPS stand for Children in Need of Protection or Services. It is a proceeding in juvenile court for any person under the age of 18 for noncriminal reasons including abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Similarly, JIPS stands for Juvenile in Need of Protection or Services, and are court proceedings involving a juvenile under the age of 18.

Can Juvenile cases and records be expunged?

Pursuant to s938.355 (4m) a juvenile who has been adjudged delinquent may, on attaining 17 years of age, petition the court to expunge the court’s record of the juvenile’s adjudication. Expungement will not be approved if the juvenile, even though he/she has reached age 17, is currently under Juvenile Court jurisdiction/supervision. Petitions are submitted to the Clerk of Circuit Court and forward to the District Attorney’s Office for their recommendation. If a judge orders a case expunged, any reference to it will be removed from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website (WCCA). If someone were to ask the court about the case, they would be told that no information for that case exists.

How do I start a guardianship action or transfer a guardian?


Petitions for guardianship/transfer guardian are filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court’s Office for children that reside in Milwaukee County only, or where guardianship originated in Milwaukee County (if a parent is seeking to terminate a guardianship). You must also complete a Minor Guardianship Questionnaire and Statement of Acts and Uniform Child Custody Affidavit. These forms must be filled out completely. Our staff is not authorized to assist you in completing said forms. The document must be signed in our presence and will not be notarized without a photo ID.

Packets with instructions are available from the Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts office at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center, Room 1530 (10201 W Watertown Plank Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53226) or on this website.  Pro se guardianship petitions are reviewed by court staff prior to filing.  There is a $15 filing fee per child.

Attorneys filing guardianship petitions for minor children should do so at the Clerk of Court's Office, at the location above.

Are forms for Juvenile Court online?

Yes. Go to to find Juvenile Court forms on the internet.

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