A juvenile matter is one in which the State intervenes in the constitutionally protected realm of the family to protect a child or children from imminent harm at the hands of their parents or guardians. Generally, a juvenile matter is commenced when Child Protected Services (CPS) takes a child into protective custody. When that happens, a "protective custody" hearing will be set within 72 hours.
At the protective custody hearing, a "Hearing Master" will determine if there was sufficient cause to take the minor into protective custody. The Hearing Master will hear arguments from the State which is represented by a Deputy District Attorney, a representative of Child Protective Services and the parents, either in proper person or represented by an attorney.
There, if the court finds there was cause to take the child(ren) into protective custody, the court will seek to place the child(ren) with the nearest relative or, if appropriate, one or the other parent. Then, the court will set a date for an initial plea hearing. At that hearing, the State will present its "Abuse/Neglect Petition."
The purpose of that petition is to specify the abuse/neglect the children have suffered at their parent's or guardian's hands and allow the Respondent parents/guardians to defend themselves against those allegations. If the Respondent Parents/Guardians deny the allegations (guilt is not considered as the matter is a civil one) then the court will set a trial date to be heard on the Eight Judicial District Court's Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) calendar (although at this point, unless the abuse/neglect is severe, the State will not seek to terminate a parent's rights).
If a trial is set, Discovery is procured from the State and your attorney will then seek to exclude or suppress that evidence as he would in a criminal matter although, again, a juvenile matter is a civil one and does not carry with it criminal sanctions (unless the matter is referred to the District Attorney's Criminal Division for further prosecution).
At trial, the court, represented by a District Court Judge and not a jury, will hear evidence from the State and Respondent to determine if the State's Petition has merit. If the Petition is accepted, the court will then hand the matter to CPS in order to prepare a case plan. That case plan will usually entail drug and alcohol evaluations/counseling, domestic violence evaluations/counseling, parenting classes and a reunification schedule, as needed depending upon the circumstances which led to the children being taken into protective custody.
The court retains jurisdiction of the matter and periodically checks in with the parties through 3 or 6 month status checks. Be advised, although CPS's mission is to reunify families, if the parent or parents fail to complete their case plan, the State will move to terminate those parents parental rights and permanently place the children outside the home.