Difference Between Juvenile and Family Courts
In In re Chantal S. (1996) 13 Cal.4th 196, 200-201, 913 P.2d 1075, the Supreme Court clarified the distinction between juvenile and family courts as follows:
"At the outset it is helpful to clarify the distinction between a 'juvenile court,' and its orders, and a 'family court,' and its orders. a 'juvenile court' is a superior court exercising limited jurisdiction arising under juvenile law.
Dependency proceedings in the juvenile court are special proceedings with their own set of rules, governed, in general, by the Welfare and Institutions Code.
"By contrast, 'family court' refers to the activities of one or more superior court judicial officers who handle litigation arising under the Family Code. It is not a separate court with special jurisdiction, but is instead the superior court performing one of its general duties.
"The two courts have separate purposes. the family court is established to provide parents a forum in which to resolve, inter alia, private issues relating to the custody of and visitation with children. In that setting, parents are presumed to be fit and capable of raising their children. the juvenile court, by contrast, provides the state a forum to 'restrict parental behavior regarding children, . . . and . . . to remove children from the custody of their parents or guardians.'
When, as in this matter, a juvenile court hears a dependency case under section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the court deals with children who have been seriously abused, abandoned, or neglected. the juvenile court has a special responsibility to the child as parens patriae and must look to the totality of a child's circumstances when making decisions regarding the child.
Accordingly, although both courts focus on the best interests of the child, 'the presumption of parental fitness that underlies custody law in the family court . . . does not apply to dependency cases' decided in the juvenile court."