Sometimes “you don’t know what you don’t know.” A perfect example of this is in juvenile court. Prosecutors and judges know what a child has been accused of doing, but they don’t know who the child really is as a person.
Is the child an excellent math student, or do they work with younger students at their Tae Kwon Do studio after school? Do they walk their elderly neighbors dog each day for free? This is all information a court should know about a child.
As a juvenile defense attorney, I encourage the parents of my clients to collect documentation about their child through the form of “character letters.” Character letters can serve as valuable evidence of a child’s character, demeanor and accomplishments. And equally important, they can tell the reader how the child interacts with other people.
Parents can assist their child by asking close family friends, family members, mentors and other individuals in the child’s life to write a character letter. However, the parent should never feel that they have to disclose a child’s situation to another party simply in order to ask for a character letter. Some parents chose to only have family members who are aware of the child’s situation to write a letter. Here are some helpful tips you can pass along to potential writers to make the task much easier.
5 Simple Steps to Writing a Character Letter for Juvenile Court:
I know from experience that judges read and appreciate these letters. While it is also helpful to have people attend court on your child's behalf to testify in person about the child's character, for those people who live out of state or have restrictive schedules, writing a letter makes the most sense. Often when a family is going through a situation with their child in court, people want to help and this is an excellent way. I also like the child to read the letters as they can provide encouragement during a challenging time.
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.