How Does The Delaware Family Court Work?
The Delaware Family Courtserves as the state’s trial court of exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile and domestic-related cases. Court cases brought before family courts are handled by designated family court judges. According to Title 10 of the Delaware Code, The Family Court may consist of 17 court judges, with one appointed to serve as Chief Judge.
As a court of exclusive jurisdiction, the Family Court handles the following matters:
- Divorces and annulments
- Juvenile delinquency
- Child neglect, dependency, and abuse cases
- Child and spousal support disputes
- Paternity cases
- Custody and child visitation matters
- Adoption cases
- Guardianship over minors
- Termination of parental rights
- Property and asset divisions
- Adult misdemeanor crimes against juveniles
- Enforcement of separation agreement
- Orders of protection for victims of abuse and stalking
- Intra-family misdemeanor offenses
- Misdemeanor offenses involving former spouses, co-habitant couples, and persons living apart and separate with a child in common
It is important to note that the Family Court does not have authority over juveniles charged with first and second-degree rape, murder, and kidnapping. Typically, appealed family court cases in Delaware go directly to the Supreme Court. The only exception is adult criminal cases which are appealed as a matter of right to the Superior Court.
In Delaware, Family Courts are governed in accordance with the Family Court Rule of Civil Procedure and Family Court Rule of Criminal Procedure.
There are 17 family court judges in Delaware. Of this number, ten are assigned to New Castle Family Court, three judges each are assigned to Kent and Sussex Counties, while one judge is appointed the chief judge. The Chief Judge serves as the overseer of all
statewide family court administrative functions. The Chief Judge has a primary office in New Castle County with secondary offices in Kent and Sussex Counties.
Delaware family court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. These judges serve 12-year terms and do not run retention elections. Instead, they are reappointed by the same mechanism for which they assumed office. To select only qualified nominees, the governor usually sets up a judicial selection committee to vet and access each appointee. Generally, family court judges must be:
- Above 21 years of age
- Be a US citizen and a state resident
- Be licensed to practice law for at least five years
The length of a court case in Delaware Family Court depends on the case type. Generally, criminal offenders are arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest. Misdemeanor or Infractions are resolved within 120 days in compliance with the state’s speedy trial rule. Typically, civil court cases take longer time—up to a year—to be resolved. However, small claims cases may be resolved within a shorter time.
The clerk of each family court in Delaware is tasked with creating and keeping case records. These records contain details such as court dockets, transcripts, names of the plaintiff/defendant, name of the presiding judge, and name of legal representatives. Interested persons can gain access to these records by using the CourtConnect created by the Delaware Court System. Requesters can locate family case records by using the case name or other relevant details of the case. Alternatively, requesters may visit the clerk of court in the family court where the case was resolved. Note that the court is allowed to charge a nominal fee for time and effort as well as in reproducing the records. Contact the clerk of court beforehand to ascertain the actual fees to be paid. Interested persons may visit or send a mail to the applicable courthouse address. Below are the addresses and contact details of all family courts in Delaware: