Child Custody and Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Which judge gets to decide?


Jurisdiction is the power of a court to make a decision over a certain person or thing. District courts have jurisdiction over divorce and child custody, in most situations. But when there is an open juvenile proceeding, the juvenile court keeps the jurisdiction, or power, to make decisions in certain kinds of cases. 

Cases in Which the Juvenile Court Keeps the Power to Decide

When custody is incidental to the determination of pending cases, a district court may enter an order of custody or modify any prior order of custody rendered by a juvenile court concerning the same child in any proceeding except in the following types of cases:

  • Child in need of care proceedings;

  • Families in need of services proceedings;

  • Involuntary termination of parental rights proceedings;

  • Voluntary termination of parental rights proceedings;

  • Adoption proceedings; and

  • Parental transfer of custody proceedings.

In other words, the district court cannot make custody orders if the child is subject to one of the kinds of cases listed above. 

However, if there is an open juvenile case, but it is not one of the kinds of cases listed above, a district court deciding a divorce or child custody case can make decisions related to custody, and modify orders of custody previously entered by the juvenile court.

End of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

Juvenile court jurisdiction ends:

  • when the juvenile court declines jurisdiction;

  • when the juvenile court transfers the proceeding;

  • upon the expiration or satisfaction of an informal adjustment agreement;

  • upon the expiration or satisfaction of an informal family services plan agreement.

  • upon the expiration, satisfaction, or vacation of a juvenile disposition or adult sentence; or

  • when the juvenile court dismisses the proceeding.

So, if any of the events listed above occur, the juvenile court jurisdiction will end and the district court will then have the power to make custody decisions. 

Last Review and Update: Oct 28, 2021
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