What Are My Options in a Florida Dependency Case?

Child dependency cases occur when professionals at the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Child Protective Services (CPS) receive reports of child abuse or neglect. Ultimately, dependency cases can result in a loss of custody and even parental rights for parents accused of child abuse or neglect.

If you're involved in a dependency case, understanding what to expect from the ordeal is vital. To schedule a consultation with our team for your dependency case, contact us online or via phone at (305) 853-9161.

The Beginnings of a Dependency Case

How a dependency case moves forward depends on the initial findings of DCF investigators. After receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, DCF investigators will investigate the report to determine the severity of the case.

In some dependency cases, if DCF investigators believe a child is in immediate danger of suffering further harm from their caretakers, they may choose to remove that child from their home immediately. This is known as placing a child in "shelter."

Alternatively, DCF can choose to have a child remain in their family home.

If DCF chooses to place a child in shelter, a dependency court will hold a shelter hearing within 24 hours. The outcome of that hearing determines whether the child continues to remain in shelter, or if the parents regain custody of the child.

Parent Option During Dependency

Within 28 days of holding a shelter hearing or seven days of DCF official filing a dependency case, the court will hold an arraignment and shelter review. The outcome of this hearing determines how the case proceeds.

Parents have three options here:

  • Deny the presence of child abuse or neglect.
  • Consent to the development of a case plan, but neither confirm nor deny the presence of child abuse or neglect.
  • Admit to child abuse or neglect.

In many cases, parents choose the second option, since it doesn't force them to plead guilty to child abuse or neglect and still opens up the path to maintaining custody of their child.

However, parents who firmly believe they have not committed any acts of abuse or neglect may be more likely to choose the first option.

If parents choose to deny allegations of child abuse or neglect, the court will hold an adjudication within 30 days of the arraignment. At adjudication, the court considers the details of the case and decides whether the parents are guilty of abuse and neglect or not.

If the court finds the parents guilty, it may move forward with the dependency process, eventually leading to the termination of the parents' legal parental rights and the placement of the child within the Florida foster care system, or their rehoming with a family member.

If the parents choose to consent to a case plan, DCF officials will work with them to establish a case plan aimed at helping the parents address any child abuse or neglect so they can reclaim custody of their child.

This typically involves a long process wherein DCF officials supervise parents over a minimum of six months to ensure they adhere to the case plan. Should parents fail to comply with the case plan, they may lose their parental rights and have their child rehomed or put into foster care.

Our team can help you pursue the best outcome in your Florida dependency case. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (305) 853-9161.