Life happens. At one point or another, you will likely find yourself with a court date. Whether it is for a simple speeding ticket or something more complicated, court can be a serious disruption for any parent without an adequate support system for their young babies. Depending on your situation, you may be wondering whether or not you can take your baby to court.
Most judges do not allow babies and young children inside the courtroom to avoid disrupting the hearings. If you are allowed to bring your baby to court you still risk being asked to leave or even fined by the judge if your child misbehaves. No courtrooms will offer supervised childcare so the best solution is to find your own.
Finding a babysitter or other childcare can be difficult. Even stay-at-home parents that normally never need a babysitter could find themselves in a pickle if they have a court appearance during business hours because they don’t have a network of sitters worked out ahead of time. Let’s look at how most courtrooms handle babies, the best ways to avoid bringing your baby to court, and even a few things you could try if you have no other choice but to bring her.
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Questions about taking your baby to court
There are all types of reasons why you may have to go to court. The courts are places that have rules and regulations that must be followed and there will be no wiggle room when it comes to their policies. When you are dealing with the court, you will usually receive documents in the mail that will give you plenty of notice on when you need to be there so preparing childcare arrangements early is your best bet.
Usually, there will be a list of rules that you need to follow for your court date. They might even specify that no children are allowed in the courtroom or that they must stay outside in the waiting area. If they don’t specify or you aren’t sure I’ll go through a list of the most common questions that you might have about bringing a baby to court.
Are you allowed to bring a baby to a hearing inside a courtroom?
In many cases, your judge probably won’t allow babies and young children inside their courtroom at all.
If they do allow them, it is still highly frowned upon as courtrooms are meant to be places of official business and kept professional at all times. This also includes proper dress, silenced smartphones (if they are even allowed) and not speaking unless spoken to. Any distractions during a hearing will just slow the whole process down and most days in court are already short on time by the end of the day even if everything goes well.
What happens if your baby is disruptive in court?
If your baby is disruptive in the courtroom then it is up to the judge as to what will happen.
In most cases, a baby that is crying or otherwise distracting the proceedings will be asked to be removed from the courtroom – meaning that you will need to leave as well. In some cases, the judge may also choose to impose a fine on you or even hold you in contempt of court for the disruption, especially if you refuse to leave. If a judge decides this then it will happen – there is no trial or follow up. What he or she says goes.
Do any courtrooms have childcare or supervised play areas?
You are unlikely to find any courtroom that will offer official childcare services or even a supervised play area. You will be on your own for finding a babysitter at home or even someone to bring with you to court to watch your baby while you are handling your business.
Find out about your local courtroom’s policy
While I’m giving general advice, your local courthouse may have a different policy. The best approach is to call right when you receive your court summons to ask them about any special accommodations or policies that you need to be aware of before you go.
The paperwork that you receive will also include a phone number that you will be able to call for when you have any questions.
Your local courtroom will have also have a website that you can look up their policy on babies in the courtroom. Make sure that you access the information and follow all of the rules and regulations. You may also call them if you have any questions that you need to be answered. It’s important that you follow their policies at all times for any proceedings with the court.
How long will court usually last?
The length of time for your court hearing will depend on several factors but it could take hours from start to finish.
While it’s possible that you will have a specific time to come for your court appointment it’s more likely that you will simply have a date and start time. This means that you might just be on a list of the entire day’s proceedings and whether or not you are early on the list or last will make a big impact.
If the court is on time and if they are, your appointment should go pretty quickly. You can ask them for an estimated time so that you can plan accordingly for help with your baby and they might tell you where you are on the list. You’ll probably only be in front of the judge for a few minutes for the actual hearing. The rest of the time that you are in the courtroom, you will be able to take the baby out of the room if it is getting disruptive.
Tips to avoid taking your baby to court altogether
Since courtrooms are such a bad place to bring a baby your best best is to try and avoid taking her there in the first place. Like I mentioned before, you should have at least several weeks notice before you are scheduled to appear in court so you should have plenty of time to make arrangements.
Even if you feel like you have no options, you might be surprised if you try!
1. Pay the ticket online or mail it in
On the rare occasion that I’ve gotten a ticket I usually just check on the back and see if there is a website. Normally, you’ll have an option to go right to the courthouse website and pay the ticket then and there, avoiding the court appearance.
Of course, this is likely only an option for speeding, parking, or some other minor infraction. In those cases, the court just wants your money and isn’t really interested in throwing you in jail or anything. Paying the ticket online or mailing it also means that you will have no ability to contest the ticket so you’ll have to admit guilt and pony up the full amount. Depending on the situation and the amount of the fine, this is probably the best option.
2. Ask for a rescheduled court day
If you know that you can’t find a babysitter or another option, you may want to reschedule your appointment for a later time that you know you’ll have coverage. This way, you can be sure that you will have the ability to care for the child during your court appearance.
Contact your courthouse immediately after receiving the appearance date and see if there is an option to reschedule. In many cases, this is a possibility.
3. Think outside the box to find a babysitter
Just because you don’t have family or friends available to babysit for you during your court hearing doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. In our case, we’ve found a couple of emergency sitters through our church as many of the teenage members work with the youth anyway and already knew our kids. Of course, this might not be an option for everyone.
Here are some other options:
- YMCA – Many local YMCA locations offer mother’s morning out programs for a low price. Others might even offer free childcare for members during certain hours of the day.
- Your gym – Similar to the ‘Y’, many gyms offer some form of childcare for a couple of hours that is meant to supervise your children while you are working out. If you have a decent relationship with the staff you might could use this as an option just once.
- Sitter swaps – Even if you don’t have a regular sitter you could sign up for a sitter swap. There are many local Facebook groups and message boards that let you connect with other parents in your area. Offer to babysit for someone during the time before your court date in exchange for their supervision when you are at the courthouse.
- Babysitter apps and services – Depending on where you live you might be able to use a babysitting app to find a local sitter. Examples are Care.com, Chime by SitterCity, UrbanSitter, and Helpr. The benefit of using one of these services is that the sitters have likely submitted to background checks and they will have reviews and ratings from other parents that have used them in the past.
4. Bring someone with you that you trust
Even if you can’t find someone you trust to babysit for the day you might have someone that could watch your baby just while you are in the courtroom. They can be a friend, relative, neighbor or even an older child that you will be able to trust with the baby. They can take the baby outside the room so that you will be able to concentrate on what you need to do.
3 tips for keeping your baby quiet if you absolutely have to bring her to court
I’ve already mentioned that its probably best to avoid bringing your baby to court if at all possible. If you simply have no alternative, here are a few tips to help make the best of the situation.
1. Bring a blanket or wear your baby
When you are unable to find any other way to work out your situation, be sure to bring along a blanket or consider wearing your baby to keep the child from disrupting the courtroom. Sometimes, when they are warmer and nestled up next to you, they will just sleep. Also, be sure that they are fed properly before you are going into the courtroom. You will also want to make sure that they are changed so that they are comfortable before you are going to appear before the judge.
2. Bring a quiet toy or game
Sometimes, a little toy that the baby can see will allow them to quiet down and feel comfortable. Make sure that it doesn’t make any noise but a cushy stuffed animal or something may just be what it takes for the baby to be able to stay quiet during the time you need to be in the courtroom. There are all types of little toys that you will find. They are made especially to work for times when your child needs to be calmed down. Make sure that they are safe to use for babies.
3. Car seat or stroller (if allowed)
Putting the little one in a car seat that will rock will help to put the baby to sleep. If the stroller is available, move it back and forth so the child may also want to sleep. Movement is always for the child so that it will not cry. You will also be able to stand up and walk back and forth with the child for a time. You may also try burping a fussy child to see if that will help.
Can you bring a baby to jury duty? Similar rules will apply to people involved in jury duty as it would be if you have a court appearance. One thing to point out is that you might be able to get excused from jury duty if you are actively breastfeeding your baby and can make a case that being away from your baby for too long poses a medical or parenting issue. You will still have to show up on the first day to plead your case, however.