Child Dependency Attorney | Child Abuse Attorney | Flagler Beach Law Firm

Our Attorneys Fight for Your Rights as Parents Under the Law

Abuse, neglect and abandonment of a child, by their parents or guardian, will negatively impact the future of the child’s emotional, physical and mental health. There have been tragic cases of child neglect and abuse, sometimes resulting in death. Florida law requires licensed professionals to be mandated reporters in cases of suspected child abuse, neglect or abandonment and there is a Florida Abuse Hotline, where reports can be made confidentially. Law Enforcement Officers and the Florida Department of Children and Families thoroughly investigate allegations and if a child is in imminent danger, they can remove the child from the home.

What is Dependency Law?

Dependency law governs the protection of a child from a dangerous situation in the home, through court intervention. It is about making sure that children are safe and protected. It is not designed to punish the parents, except when criminal charges have been filed. Rather, the goal of the court system is to assist the parents with services and skills that will make for successful reunification with their children. Some common reasons to remove a child from their parent’s custody are domestic violence, the usage of drugs or alcohol, excessive corporal punishment, unsafe or no housing, parental alienation and untreated medical needs.

How Does Dependency Law Operate in Florida?

The process of dependency law is complex and requires a knowledgeable family law attorney to guide the parents through the court system. When a child is removed from the home, the following court proceedings will ensue;

  • A Shelter Hearing will be held within 24 hours, at which time a judge will review the evidence and decide if the child is to return to the home or remain sheltered. The court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, which is an objective person that will investigate the circumstances of the family and report to the court with recommendations. If it is determined that the child remain in a licensed foster home or the care of loving relatives, the Department of Children and Families will file a Petition for Dependency.
  • At an Arraignment Hearing, a judge will review the Petition for Dependency and the parents will enter a plea. If the parents consent without admitting the allegation, they agree to mediation to set up a case plan to resolve their issues. If they deny the charges, an Adjudicatory Hearing is arranged.
  • An Adjudicatory Hearing is a trial, whereas witnesses and evidence is reviewed by a judge. If the case is not proven, the charged are dismissed. If proven, a Disposition Hearing is scheduled.
  • A Disposition Hearing will determine custody rights while the parents complete a case plan. A case plan can include parenting classes, counseling, locating adequate housing, participating in a drug or alcohol program and applying for financial assistance.
  • A Judicial review is done every six months to discuss progress on the care plan.
  • A Reunification Hearing occurs when the case plan is completed and the judge determines that the child is no longer at risk and can return to the custody of the parents.

If the parents are unable or unwilling to complete a case plan, the Florida Department of Children and Families can file a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights and this will terminate the parent’s legal custody of the child.

Contacting a Family Attorney

Child welfare cases are serious matters and each case is unique. The Law Office of Lisa M. Dawson, P.A. can defend your rights as the parents of the child. Evidence can be presented that shows that the reporter of the abuse has motives that are not in the best interest of the child or they are not credible. Let us explain the court process and the consequences of your plea through every step and assist with a case plan for reunification of your family. Make an appointment for a free consultation to discuss a solid legal strategy.