A person from Florida’s Department of Children and Families takes your child away from you, and you do not understand why. The situation scares your little one, and you may become angry, frustrated and confused. Why is this happening to you?
Someone believed you abused, abandoned or neglected your child, so he or she called the abuse hotline. You may never know who did this because calls made to the hotline are confidential. Now you must get your child back. The following article describes the hearings of a dependency case.
A dependency action, also called a Chapter 39 proceeding, is a civil suit based on allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment of a child. Florida Statute 39.001 describes the purpose is to provide for the care, safety and protection of children in a safe environment. It recognizes that most parents want to provide for their children. However, the safety of the children is of utmost importance.
Within 24 hours of the removal of the child from the custody of the parent or guardian, the court will have a Shelter Hearing. The court uses the Shelter Hearing to decide if the Department of Children and Families, or DCF, will return the child to his or her home or if the child will remain out of the parent’s or guardian’s custody.
The court will review the Petition for Dependency. The petition lists the allegations against the parent or guardian. The parent or guardian may admit to the claims, consent to a case plan or deny the allegations.
If the parent or guardian disputes the claims, the court holds an adjudicatory hearing. This hearing is a trial where witnesses testify, and there is a presentation of evidence. The judge decides if DCF proved its case.
When the parent or guardian wants a case plan, the court uses this hearing to review it. The judge determines who will have custody of the child while the parent or guardian completes the plan. The parent or guardian has one year to complete the case plan.