Dependency (DCF)

JUVENILE DEPENDENCY:

 Juvenile “Dependency” proceedings are civil actions against the custodian/parents/guardian of the child(ren), who are “dependent” on the State of Florida or the petitioner for protections, services, safety and/or welfare.
 
Our firm represents individuals in proceedings relating to Chapter 39, Florida Statutes such as:
  • representing accused parents
  • representing grandparents
  • representing the children (as attorney ad litem)
  • shelter hearings
  • dependency proceedings (arraignments, case plan approval, judicial reviews, pretrial and trial)
  • termination of parental rights proceedings and trials
  • adoptions
 

JUVENILE DEPENDENCY LAW.

  • Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, provides the legal authorities and scope of juvenile dependency cases. 
  • Rule 8.000 through Rule 8.986, Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedures, provide rules for which the attorneys and pro se litigants are expected to follow. Some of the rules include filings of pleadings (legal documents), notices and motions. Pro se litigants (parents who represent themselves) should attentively review and follow these rules.
  • Chapter 409, Florida Statutes, outlines the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services.
 

JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS. The juvenile court proceedings generally are as follows: 

  1. Shelter: the shelter hearing must occur within 24 hours from the time the State of Florida/petitioner takes temporary protection (custody, generally speaking) over the child(ren).
  2. Shelter Review: when a regular Juvenile Dependency/Circuit Judge did not preside over the shelter hearing. Within 72 hours of the shelter hearing, the case must be reviewed by a regular Juvenile Dependency/Circuit Judge.
  3. Arraignment: When a child has been sheltered by order of the court, an arraignment hearing must be held no later than 28 days after the shelter hearing, or within 7 days after the date of filing of the dependency petition if a demand for early filing has been made by any party, for the parent or legal custodian to admit, deny, or consent to findings of dependency alleged in the petition.  At any arraignment hearing, if the child is in an out-of-home placement, the court shall order visitation rights absent a clear and convincing showing that visitation is not in the best interest of the child.
  4. Adjudicatory hearings:  Adjudicatory hearings shall be conducted by the judge without a jury, applying the rules of evidence in use in civil cases and adjourning the hearings from time to time as necessary. In a hearing on a petition in which it is alleged that the child is dependent, a preponderance of evidence will be required to establish the state of dependency. Any evidence presented in the dependency hearing which was obtained as the result of an anonymous call must be independently corroborated. In no instance shall allegations made in an anonymous report of abuse, abandonment, or neglect be sufficient to support an adjudication of dependency in the absence of corroborating evidence.
 

WHY HAVE AN ATTORNEY? There are many reasons to have an attorney representing the parent. The following are some of those reasons:

  1. To protect the parent from making self-incriminating statements. Self-incriminating statements may be used against the parent(s) in criminal prosecution and perjury. 
  2. To have the attorney to explain the time-line and complex juvenile dependency process of various legal consequences. The parent should be aware that one of the legal consequence of the “Dependency” is the termination of parental rights to the parent(s). This may result in adoption of the dependent child(ren).
  3. The various options and alternative services that are available to the parents.