Being involved in a child abuse or child negligence case is highly emotional for all parties, especially the child. If you or a loved one is involved in a case with allegations of child abuse or child negligence it is critical to have knowledgeable counsel at the onset of the case. Child abuse cases will involve Department of Children and Families (DCF) and/or Child Protective Services (CPS). The agency will perform an investigation which can result in a dependency case and ultimately a termination of parental rights.
Dependency proceedings in Florida usually initiate upon a child's being sheltered (removed from its parents' or legal guardians' legal custody) due to the existence of probable cause to believe the child is being abused, abandoned, or neglected. A trial is subsequently held to determine whether a preponderance of the evidence shows the child is dependent upon the state for its care or custody. If the child is adjudicated dependent, the parents enter into a case plan which outlines certain tasks the parents must successfully complete in order for the child to return to or remain in their care and custody. Upon the parents' substantial compliance with a case plan, and if the child has safely remained in the custody of the parents for six months, the court may terminate supervision and terminate jurisdiction on the case. Alternatively, if the parents have not complied with the case plan, the court may permanently place the child under a variety of other permanency goals, such as permanent guardianship, placement with a fit and willing relative, or another planned permanent living arrangement. The court may retain jurisdiction or supervision depending on which permanency goal is selected.
Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings:
A termination of parental rights proceeding in Florida usually initiates upon the filing of a petition for the termination of a parent's parental rights. Such petition is typically filed by the Department of Children and Families, though it may be filed by any person with an interest in the child. Florida allows termination of parental rights only for certain enumerated grounds, which must be proven at trial by clear and convincing evidence. In addition to the grounds, the petitioner must also prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the parents' rights is in the manifest best interests of the child, and that termination of the parents' rights is the least restrictive means for protecting the child. In cases of one-parent terminations of parental rights, additional requirements apply. If the court makes all three findings (and the one-parent termination requirements are met, if applicable), the parent or parents' rights are terminated and the child is free for adoption. A termination of parental rights proceeding may, but need not necessarily, follow a dependency proceeding.
If you have additional questions about child abuse or neglect, please contact our office at 561-819-6208 to schedule an initial consultation or go to our contact page.
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