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Almost every parent has faced the logistical horror of receiving a jury summons. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent of infants or a double-income parent of middle school children, the thought of getting to the courthouse by 8:30 a.m., potentially for weeks on end, is enough to give you an ulcer. Can a parent get out of jury duty to take care of children? The answer depends on your local jurisdiction, and some are more lenient than others.
Request for Postponement
If the week you are requested to come in for jury duty happens to be an awful week, you can request a postponement, normally by calling or emailing the Jury Commissioner for the local superior court. This contact information should be listed on your jury summons, but it may also be found on your local county government's website.
Maybe it's the week of your twins' birthday. Or maybe there's a Christmas pageant at the school. Or your kids have finals and will be a hot mess and completely inflexible. Most jurisdictions allow anyone to postpone their period of service up to 90 days. If you happen to be a student or a schoolteacher, postponement may be a little longer, potentially up until the next school break. Some jurisdictions, such as Sacramento, allow breastfeeding mothers to postpone up to one year, though sometimes this requires a note from your doctor. But these are just postponements, not exclusions.
Request an Excuse
Getting a complete excuse, rather than postponement, of jury duty is challenging. Courts generally view jury duty as a responsibility of every citizen. Inconvenience is not considered a good reason to be excused. Rather, most jurisdictions require your reason to rise to the level of hardship, and is often dictated by state law.
In California, the only reason a parent could request a hardship excuse, solely because they are a parent, is having a personal obligation to take care of your children from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no comparable care economically feasible, to the point of creating great financial hardship on the family. This may require written documentation to be submitted in order to be accepted.
Never Be a No Show
As tempting as it is, never be a no-show to jury duty. Though discipline is rare, it is legal and can be severe, including jail time. More common "failure to appear" sentences are fines, ranging from $250 to $1,500, depending on your jurisdiction and the circumstances of your case. Also, failure to appear for jury duty can result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest. Can you imagine explaining that to your kids if the police show up at your doorstep or you get pulled over? Talk about a teachable moment.