The State of Florida may initiate a lawsuit against a parent based upon allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Such a lawsuit is known as a Dependency lawsuit and is governed by Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes. A Dependency action is filed by the State of Florida against one or both parents after allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect have been reported to the Department of Children and Families (also known as DCF) or law enforcement. Allegations of child abuse may be reported by a friend or neighbor who suspects child abuse or by persons known as “mandatory reporters” such as doctors, therapists and teachers. Once an abuse allegation has been reported, DCF will assign an investigator from their Child Protective Team to investigate the allegations and make a determination if the child needs to be immediately removed from the home or not. From that point a Dependency case moves very quickly and it is imperative you are well-represented to protect both your parental rights and the best interest of your child or children.
Dependency actions are not criminal in nature but they can have very serious and long-term effects on a parents’ contact and relationship with their children. The outcome of Dependency lawsuits can range from reunification with your child to termination of parental rights. If allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect have been made against you, whether valid or not, you must take the process seriously and act swiftly to protect your rights as a parent, in the short-term and long-term. The attorneys at Hertz • Sager have vast experience in Dependency Defense and are here to help protect you and your children.