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Expensive Shelby County Juvenile Court fees waived to help parents

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There's big news for parents whose children end up in Shelby County Juvenile Court. Expensive fees the court used to charge are gone. Most of the families that come through the court are at or near the poverty line, and county officials don't want to saddle parents with costly fees when they're already struggling to make ends meet.

"It's just not right," Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said.

Specifically, court costs, court appointed attorney's fees and detention fees are being waived. Detention fees alone cost parents $125 a day. These changes were announced today and also apply to families with current, outstanding charges.

"I know it's not going to solve the juvenile crime problem, but what it will do is give those families more financial wherewithal to become whole and help their children rehabilitate once they come home," Michael said.

County Mayor Lee Harris says hardly any money was being collected anyway, because most families can't afford the fees.

"Instead, these families would either have to file bankruptcy because of the onerous amount of fees, or they just wouldn't pay them," Michael said.

And that lead to all sorts of consequences.

"One of the down sides of fees like this is that it can negatively impact credit scores, and that has all sorts of negative repercussions," Harris said.  "These kind of outstanding fees can also affect your ability to get licensure for employment."

And because most families don't pay the fees county officials don't want to waste resources anymore.

"So, why spend the men and womanhood power that you have to spend on sending out bills that aren't going to be addressed right?" Michael said.

The county says no child has ever been held simply because of unpaid fees. Again, this applies to families with current, unpaid fees. If you want to have yours waived just call the juvenile court at 901-405-8574.

It's important to note, these changes do not apply to other court proceedings at juvenile court like custody hearings.

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