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What is dependency court in Florida?

Dependency court is one of the oddest, hybrid courts in Florida.  It is an odd hybrid court because it is essentially a combination of civil, family and it is somewhat criminal in nature as well.   Dependency court involves the State of Florida making allegations against a parent that their children should be deemed “dependent” and removed from the home.  Dependency court is a combination of courts because it invokes the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the “best interest of the child” standard is often invoked in some capacity and criminal in that basic due process rights reminiscent of Florida criminal courts.  Dependency court culminates with an adjudicatory hearing, the Florida Statute setting out the procedures concerning how to conduct an adjudicatory hearing is found in Florida Statute Section 39.507.  As we have discussed elsewhere, dependency court is a somewhat unique statutory creation.  There are three critical factors to consider in dependency courts.

First, it is critical to quickly consult with a Tampa dependency attorney because of quick, absolute time limits in these matters.  As you can imagine, dependency Judges are unforgiving towards parties that are delinquent or delay these proceedings.   Additionally, a party must quickly determine whether they are going to go to a dependency hearing or work a case plan.  If the case involves a mother and father, it is critical to act quickly before the other party is able to contact the Department of Children and Families and begin resolving their matter.  When the other party quickly acts, you will be at a profound disadvantage in your Florida dependency matter.  Unfortunately, many times parties delay getting Tampa dependency attorneys in these matters to their eventual detriment.

Secondly, these matters often require parties to make decisions as to whether to testify in these matters, which may implicate them in criminal matters.  For example, if the dependency petition includes allegations of child abuse, a parent will ultimately be forced to determine whether they will testify in the dependency matter or remain silent to potentially assist their right to remain silent.   We have experience handling the unique interplay between dependency and criminal matters to assure our client’s rights are protected in both the dependency and criminal matters.  Unfortunately, many folks, who have two different attorneys handling the matters, lack the planning and oversight to coordinate their efforts and defense.

Thirdly, these matters involve a multitude of parties that are often totally foreign to folks prior to these proceedings, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, Guardian Ad Litems, etc.  It is imperative to have a Tampa dependency attorney to assist in these matters to help you navigate the bureaucratic nightmare that can be caused by the number of governmental agencies involved.  Additionally, our relationships with these agencies and service providers can assist in making these issues more manageable.

If you or someone you know is going through a dependency case, contact the Tampa dependency attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation concerning your case in dependency court.  We have handled these issues throughout the Tampa Bay area.  If you would like to contact one of our Tampa dependency attorneys immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website.  We appreciate you taking the time to check out our Tampa dependency attorney blog and look forward to hearing from you.