Family Matters Law Group P.A.
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Overview of Dependency Court

When the state brings allegations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or failure to protect your child, you may find yourself dragged into dependency court and possibly criminal court as well. Dependency court is a combination of family court and criminal court where the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure govern while still attempting to provide the parties with due process. The standard is the "best interests of the child" if the petition is against you, but changes to "detriment to the child" if you are the non-offending parent.

Dependency court can be incredibly overwhelming for the parties involved if they attempt to navigate it without an attorney. There are a number of government agencies involved, including the Attorney General's Office, Department of Children and Families, and Guardian Ad Litem, all with differing opinions on what is in the child's best interest. The bureaucratic way the system is designed can make it seem as though all parties, even the judge, are working together and against you. It's your attorney's job to break the "chain" that all the parties have created and get you reunified with your family as quickly and safely as possible.

Decisions can be made rather quickly in dependency court, including admitting to charges, settling it at mediation, or even having your children placed in foster court. For this reason, it is important to hire an attorney as early in the process as possible. For example, one of my clients hired me after agreeing to a case plan. At that point, many options initially available to her to reduce the impact on her and her children's lives are no longer available. One of the first hearings, a Shelter Hearing, can be held less than 24 hours from the removal of your child and the judge decides if there was sufficient probable cause to do so. Many legal arguments can and should be made, and we can help you.

It can be an even more challenging process if you are also facing criminal charges. The State Attorney's Office may choose to bring charges if certain allegations arise. At this point it is crucial to have ONE attorney represent you on both cases since they can be intertwined. For example, your attorney can make the determination if it is appropriate for you to testify in your dependency case, since everything you say can be used against you in your criminal case

It is crucial to have an attorney that is knowledge in both court systems to represent you in your dependency case and, if applicable, your related criminal case. Contact us right away as time is of the essence. Our firm provides FREE phone consultations.

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Family Matters Law Group P.A.
6950 Cypress Rd.
Suite #107
Plantation, FL 33317

Toll Free: 866-593-0459
Phone: 954-601-3737
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