Losing custody of a child is something all parents fear. During divorce proceedings, issues surrounding custody are typically addressed that may affect your relationship with your children. An even more severe scenario that could affect your legal rights to your children is presented by the dependency process.

What is Florida’s Dependency Process?

Dependency cases are civil actions brought in court based on allegations of child abuse, neglect or abandonment. In order for proceedings to initiate, there must be allegations that were communicated to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Once the DCF determines your case is serious enough to investigate, an investigator will begin an inquiry into your family’s situation. Depending on the severity of your situation, a DCF agent may take emergency custody of your child and place them in a secure location.

Dependency Arraignment

Once a child has been removed from custody, DCF will serve parents with a Petition for Dependency. The arraignment date will be held within 30 days from the date the child has been removed from the residence.

In cases where a hearing is necessary, parents will be given an opportunity to either admit or deny the allegations presented by the DCF. It is imperative to seek advice from legal counsel that will help you make the best decisions for your family in the long term.

Case Plan Resolutions

Florida law provides for mediation as a means to resolve dependency issues. The Florida Statutes require for state officials, and DCF agents to work with families on developing a case plan. The plan will lay out all the issues the court will be addressing during the dependency process. The court will review this plan and either accept or deny it. In cases where no such plan was developed, or the plan was rejected, an adjudicatory hearing must be scheduled.

Adjudicatory and Disposition Hearings

At the hearing, DCF will have to show your child was subject to abuse, abandonment, and neglect, or was in in immediate danger of becoming so. If at the result of the hearing a child is adjudicated as dependent, and no case plan has been reached, the court will be required to hold a dispositional hearing.

The purpose of the dispositional hearing will be to address what goals the case plan should cover. Aside from creating a case plan, courts will also address plans for potential reunification of parents and children.

The dependency process is long and emotional. Our team of attorneys will be able to navigate you through this difficult time by helping you regain custody of your child within a reasonable time. Our team of knowledgeable family lawyers will provide you with the help you need, tailored to you and your family’s unique situation. The process can also understandably be overwhelming, emotional, and complicated in many situations. However, working with an experienced Florida family law attorney can make the process much easier for everyone involved.

The attorneys at The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm understand your situation, and we will use our extensive experience to secure the most favorable solution in your case. We pride ourselves on understanding our client’s needs and goals, and then use our knowledge, skill, and resources to work towards a desirable outcome. Contact us today to discuss your situation, get your questions answered, and find out how we can help with your legal issue today.

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