Sometimes parents in Dependency Court get served with a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights. In Florida, there are 12 statutory grounds upon which the Court might terminate parental rights if proven by clear and convincing evidence. See Fla. Stat., s. 39.806.
Dependency court can be overwhelming. Below is a quick overview of some of the crucial hearings that are held.
It can be INCREDIBLY frustrating and overwhelming to find the Department of Children and Families (DCF) along with the Broward Sheriff's Office's Child Protective Investigative Section (BSO's CPIS) investigating you and your family, and even questioning your children. Most times you may not even know what to do or if you need to answer their questions. These are the beginning steps of a dependency proceeding.
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.
In short, yes, non-offending parents should absolutely have an attorney. If your income is under a certain amount, you may qualify to have an attorney appointed to you through the Courts free of charge. If your income is over the guidelines, you will have to obtain private counsel.