Family Matters Law Group P.A.
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Different Types of Hearings in Dependency Court

Dependency court can be overwhelming. Below is a quick overview of some of the crucial hearings that are held.

Shelter:

A shelter hearing is to be held within 24 hours from the time the State takes custody over the child. Its purpose is to determine whether there was/remains sufficient probable cause for the child to remain in the care of the State or whether the child can safely be returned to the parent. If the judge feels there is sufficient probable cause, another option available to the parent is to provide contact information for a relative that can take temporary custody over the child. It is incredibly important to have an attorney at this stage in the proceeding.

Shelter Review:

If a shelter hearing is held before a judge that is not a Dependency or Circuit Court Judge, a shelter review hearing must be held within 72 hours of the shelter hearing for review by a Dependency/Circuit Court Judge.

Arraignment:

When a child has been sheltered, an arraignment must be held no later than 28 days after the shelter hearing, or within 7 days after the date of filing of the dependency petition if a demand for early filing has been made. If at the arraignment the parent admits or consents to the allegations made in the petition, a disposition hearing must be held within 15 days after the arraignment. If, on the other hand, the person denies the allegations, an adjudicatory hearing must be held within 30 days. On the other hand, if the child has not been sheltered and remains in the care of the parent/legal custodian, an arraignment shall be held within a reasonable time after the date of the filing of the petition.

Mediation:

Mediation is optional in Dependency cases, and is a time where the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) come together with the State and the Department to try to come up with an agreement as to a case plan. Once you agree to a case plan, you have lost your opportunity to fight against the petition at an adjudicatory hearing.

Adjudicatory Hearing:

As stated above, an adjudicatory hearing must be held within 30 days of arraignment. The burden of proof is "preponderance of the evidence" which means at least 51% would be required to establish the child is in a state of dependency. An adjudicatory hearing is essentially a trial to be held on the petition, which is done in front of a judge without a jury and using the civil rules of evidence.

It is CRUCIAL to have a private attorney for a dependency case. An attorney can help protect your rights and guide you through this complex court system. Call us for a free consultation.

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

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