Dependency Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale
Experienced in Dependency Proceedings
At Stok Kon + Braverman, we have substantial experience when it comes to handling complex family law and juvenile matters, including dependency proceedings. Our lawyers have assisted clients throughout Broward County with protecting their legal rights during times of emotional turmoil. Dependency actions can be highly contested affairs, especially if there are allegations of abuse, abandonment, or neglect of the children involved.
We urge you to contact us promptly if you are facing this situation.
Understanding Dependency Proceedings in Florida
In general, a dependency proceeding involves a civil action brought in court based on allegations that abandonment, abuse, or child neglect has occurred or is occurring. The allegations are reported to Florida’s Department of Children and Families, often through the Florida Abuse Hotline. The Department will investigate the allegations. If there is evidence that the child involved faces an imminent risk as a result of abandonment, neglect, or abuse, the Department has the authority to remove the child from the home.
The court must conduct a proceeding called a Shelter Hearing within 24 hours of the removal to decide whether the child should remain out of the home or should be returned. If the court decides that keeping the child out of the home is in the child’s best interests, the Department will file a document called a Petition for Dependency. In response to this petition, the judge will schedule an arraignment. There are some situations in which the Department may conclude that it is appropriate for the child to remain in the home, but supervision or other services are still necessary. In this instance, the Department will file a Petition for Dependency without removing the child from the home. In general, the Petition is the document that initiates the court case. Our attorneys can explain the nuances of these procedures and filings in more detail.
If the matter proceeds to an arraignment hearing, the court will take a series of actions. First, it will review the allegations in the petition that the Department filed. It will also ask the parents involved to enter a plea. If you admit the allegations, you are essentially agreeing that the allegations in the petition are true. If you deny them, you are disputing that the allegations are true and requesting a mediation or case plan conference to discuss the allegations in more detail.
When a parent denies the allegations, an Adjudicatory Hearing will be arranged. This hearing will involve witness testimony regarding the allegations in the Petition and an opportunity to present evidence. There are no juries involved in this proceeding, so the judge makes the ultimate decision on whether the allegations are supported by the evidence that the Department presents. Having an attorney representing your interests and guiding you through the process is critical in this situation.There is also a third option beyond admitting or denying the allegations, which is a consent response that indicates that the parent neither admits nor denies the allegations. Instead, they agree to participate in a case plan to remedy the allegations in the Petition. With a consent response, the parent is also agreeing to undergo continued supervision from the court.
If you are involved in a dependency proceeding or have received contact from the Department of Children and Families, you probably have questions regarding your legal rights and the best way to protect your children and preserve your relationship with them. At Stok Kon + Braverman, we have assisted clients facing allegations of domestic battery, child abuse, and related forms of misconduct throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties.