History

JUVENILE COURT HISTORY

In 1899, Illinois passed the Juvenile Court Act, which established the nation's first juvenile court. Missouri became the eighth state to create a juvenile court by establishing the St. Louis City juvenile court on March 23, 1903.

The British doctrine of parens patriae (the state as parent) was the rationale for the right of the state to intervene in the lives of children in a manner different from the way it intervenes in the lives of adults. The doctrine was interpreted to mean that, because children were not of full legal capacity, the state had the inherent power and responsibility to provide protection for children whose natural parents were not providing appropriate care or supervision. The juvenile court has evolved throughout its lifetime. For additional information on the history of the juvenile justice system in the United States, see OJJDP's Bulletin Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change

The qualifications for what designates a minor as “juvenile” under the law vary from state to state. In Missouri, the system generally applies to anyone younger than 17 years of age.

Juvenile residential facilities work under the same philosophy as the rest of the justice system, focusing more on rewarding good behavior, rather than punishing bad. Delinquents being held in these facilities are given the opportunity (and usually ordered by the court) to attend family, group, and individual counseling, and to attend school and other programs that are offered. Residential facilities offer the residents a chance to learn new skills such as art, gardening, and auto repair.

The juvenile court doctrine was interpreted to mean that, because children were not of full legal capacity, the state had the inherent power and responsibility to provide protection for children whose natural parents were not providing appropriate care or supervision. The juvenile court has evolved throughout its lifetime. For additional information on the history of the juvenile justice system in the United States, see OJJDP's Bulletin Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change

FAMILY COURT DIVISION HISTORY

The Jackson County Family Court Division was established in August 1993 by enactment of House Bill 346.  Once known as the “Juvenile Division”, the Family Court is a designated division within the 16th Judicial Circuit Court and by statute is accorded broad jurisdiction over domestic relations and juvenile matters.

The Family Court has the authority to hear and determine the following:

Juvenile

  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Child Dependency
  • Adoptions/Guardianships
  • All matters involving Chapter 210/211 matters

Domestic Relations

  • All matters involving dissolution of marriage, legal separation, separate maintenance, child custody, modifications;
  • Annulment of marriage
  • Paternity actions
  • Actions for determining and enforcing support under Chapter 454
  • Adult abuse and child protection matters under Chapter 455
  • Changes of name
  • Marriage license waiting period waivers

The structure and operation of the Family Court Division differ from other divisions within the Circuit Court in many ways.  Various programs and services are delivered that promote the timely and just resolution of family disputes, dependency issues and delinquency matters within a comprehensive family justice system.  Commissioners are appointed to hear family court cases and make findings and recommendations subject to final adoption and confirmation by an associate or circuit court judge.   Additionally, judges and commissioners assigned to hear family court matters have received special training in family issues and law.

Laws 1993 H.B. 346;  now in ch. 487 RSMo 200.

Section 487.080

Additional Resources:

History and Overview of the Juvenile Court 
(Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)