Overview of a Dependency Case

dependency proceeding happens in Florida when a child has been removed from the home because of the probable existence of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The entire process from the removal of the child to the final determination of their custody is known as a dependency case. This article provides a brief overview of what to expect if your child has been removed because of a dependency case.

Initiation of Dependency Case

The removal of a child from the home in a dependency case begins when a person calls the Florida Abuse Hotline or contacts the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) and reports the possible abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child. An investigator is dispatched to the home and has the right to remove the child if there is probable cause to suspect the harmful activities.

Within 24 hours of the removal of the child, a court hearing known as a “shelter hearing” is held. This will determine whether the child will be kept in the care of the state or foster system during the dependency proceedings. At this point, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to speak in the best interests of the child.

Arraignment Hearing

The next step is an arraignment hearing, where the parents will have an opportunity to admit, consent, or deny the allegations of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. If the parent admits or consents to the allegations, the court will set up a case plan for the parents to follow in order to have their child returned. If the allegations are denied, then the case moves to pre-adjudicatory and adjudicatory hearings.

Adjudicatory Hearings

The pre-adjudicatory and adjudicatory hearings are similar to a trial in criminal or civil court. It allows the parent and the state to present evidence that either supports or denies the claim of child harm. There is no jury in these hearings and the judge makes the final determination of dependency. If the judge dismisses the claims at this point, then the child may return home. If there is a different outcome at the hearing, the case then moves to a disposition hearing.

Disposition Hearing

At the disposition hearing, a judge takes into account all of the claims and evidence presented in the arraignment and adjudicatory hearings, recommendations by DCF, and makes a final determination regarding the placement of the child. It is at this time that a case plan may be developed with DCF for the eventual return of the child to the home. The judge may also recommend future judicial review hearings and a final permanency hearing in the following months.

Contact Our Office Today

If your child has been taken as part of a dependency proceeding, you need an experienced attorney by your side. At the office of Stok Kon + Braverman, our lawyers are skilled at handling dependency hearings and are here to help. Call the Fort Lauderdale office or contact us today for a free and confidential review of your dependency case.