Sarasota Child Dependency Attorneys
Fighting for Your Rights During Dependency Disputes
When a parent is accused of child neglect or abuse, they may find themself embroiled in a dependency case. Depending on the outcome of the case, parents may have their parental rights terminated or need to take certain steps to regain custody of their child.
At Boeller Law, our Sarasota child dependency attorneys will help you navigate your custody case and pursue the best outcome for you and your child(ren).
To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced, empathetic attorneys for your case, contact us online or via phone at (941) 315-8598.
How Do Dependency Cases Work in FL?
When officials at the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) receive a report of child abuse or neglect, DCF investigators will assess the situation. Investigators may run background checks on parents to see if they have a history of child abuse or neglect, as well as interview various persons of interest.
If DCF investigators determine a child is in immediate danger of suffering from abuse or neglect, they may immediately remove that child from their home. Otherwise, the DCF may try and work with the parents to address any issues in their parenting style or amend any occurrences that could put the child in danger.
If DCF does remove a child from a home, a dependency court will hold a shelter hearing within 24 hours. At the shelter hearing, both parents and DCF investigators can present evidence justifying why the child is or isn't in danger of abuse or neglect.
If the court sides with the DCF, it will place the child in shelter. This could involve housing them with family members if possible, or placing them in a foster care facility until the dependency case can be resolved.
After the shelter hearing, the DCF typically files a Petition for Dependency with the court.
Arraignment & Shelter Reviews in FL Dependency Cases
If the child is removed from their parent's custody, the court will hold an arraignment and shelter review within 28 days of the shelter hearing or within seven days of the petition being filed. This event may also occur if parents refuse to cooperate with DCF professionals to correct behavior DCF determines is placing a child in danger of abuse or neglect.
At the arraignment and shelter review, parents have a few options:
- Admit to allegations of abuse or neglect;
- Consent to following a case plan put in place by the DCF, but refuse to admit to allegations of abuse or neglect;
- Refuse to admit to allegations or commit to a case plan.
If the parents deny the allegations, the court will hold an adjudication and decide whether the parents are innocent or guilty of child abuse and neglect.
Many parents opt to consent to a case plan without admitting to allegations of abuse or neglect. In this case, the parents will work with DCF officials to construct a case plan. Case plans often require parents to engage in certain activities, such as parenting education classes, and are monitored by DCF officials. Most case plans aim to correct issues within a home, so parents can reclaim custody of their child.
After the court holds a disposition and approves the case plan, the parents must begin acquiescing to the case plan if they wish to regain custody.
Judicial Reviews in FL Dependency Cases
Within 90 days of the disposition hearing and case plan approval, the court will hold a judicial review to determine whether the parents are adhering to the case plan.
If they are, and the child was not removed from the parent's home at the beginning of the dependency case or has been reunified with them for at least six months, the court can terminate supervision of the parents, choosing to resolve the case with mediation or another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Six months after the disposition, the court will hold another judicial review. As with the 90-day review, it can terminate supervision of parents at this point and resolve the case through mediation or ADR if the parents are complying with the case plan and the child was not rehomed, or has been in their care for the last six months without incident.
Finally, 12 months after the disposition and case plan approval, the court will hold a final judicial review and permanency hearing.
At this hearing, the court will either decide to reunify the child with their parent(s) or terminate their parental rights.
If the court decides to reunify the child with their parents, the case may resolve with the parents maintaining custody of their child.
However, the court may also decide that the child must either be permanently rehomed with a relative, or be placed into a foster care facility and pursue adoption. In this case, the court may file a petition for termination of parental rights. If the parents wish to contest this decision, they may - otherwise, they can voluntarily surrender their parental rights.
If the parents successfully contest the termination of their parental rights, they may regain custody of their child. Otherwise, they may have their parental rights terminated, at which point the child may be put up for adoption and the court may work to establish a guardian for the child while the adoption process is ongoing.
Having a dependency lawyer you can trust by your side is vital if you want to obtain the best outcome in your dependency case. At Boeller Law, our dependency lawyers are here to ensure you do what's best for you and your family.
To schedule a consultation with our Sarasota dependency attorneys for your case, contact us online or via phone at (941) 315-8598.
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