Florida dependency court handles cases involving child abuse and neglect. You may be a parent trying to regain custody of your children if they have been removed from your care. Either way, dependency court is the venue in which you will go through the process of determining care arrangements for the children involved.Removal of Children
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) can remove a child from their parent in Florida if there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, or if there is imminent danger of injury or illness due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. DCF can also remove a child from their parent if the parent has violated a condition of placement; or if the child's parent is absent, the child can be removed from their current home if no parent, relative, or legal custodian can be located.
Removal of your child does not mean you no longer have parental rights. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to explore all avenues of having your children returned safely.Shelter Hearings
If DCF removes your child from their home, then a shelter hearing will take place. At this time, DCF will present evidence as to why they removed the child and believe the child should remain in state custody. As a parent, relative, or caregiver, you will also have the opportunity to present evidence as to why your child should be returned home.
If you are a parent and your child has been taken into state custody, you have the right to retain counsel and to request that a shelter hearing be delayed for up to 72 hours so you have time to find an attorney. This time period is critical and you should not hesitate to call our office at 305-358-8003 if you have received notification of a shelter hearing.Termination of Parental Rights
Public policy holds that every effort should be made to facilitate reunification of children with their biological parent. However, not all parents whose children have been removed from their care know their rights. The state can move for Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) with a petition and a court hearing will be held within 21 days if the parent(s) voluntarily surrender rights. If either parent challenges the petition, a hearing must be held within 45 days. If you are facing termination of your parental rights, call an attorney immediately so you have adequate time to prepare for your hearing and understand what you need to demonstrate in order to have the petition for TPR denied and your child put on a path to returning to your care.