Juvenile Dependency/CPS


A dependency case typically begins when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigates a report of suspected abandonment, abuse, or neglect of your child/children. Sometimes the complaints are well-founded, oftentimes, they are not. Either way, having an attorney who will fight to protect your rights throughout dependency proceedings could mean the difference between getting your kids back and losing them to the custody of the State.

Most people are unfamiliar with dependency case proceedings. I invite you to read further to get a bit more information on the process.

Once a complaint is made, typically a call to an abuse hotline, a protective investigator will be sent to your home to look into the situation. Based on the complaint alone, the investigator can take your child away and into State custody pending a "shelter hearing". A shelter hearing is your first oppurtunity to come before a Circuit Court judge to hear the specifice of the complaint against you. The Judge will determine at the shelter hearing whether "probable cause" exists to sustain the allegations. If deemed to exist, your child will likely remain in "shelter status" (i.e. not in your custody) while the Department of Children and Families prepares a formal written document known as a petition to be submitted to the court. The petition contains the allegations and, in effect, asks that the Court adjudicate/label your kid dependent and that he/she remain under the supervision of DCF.

Following the shelter hearing and filing of a petition comes the arraignment. At an arraignment, the Judge will ask you for a response to the petition, that is, he will ask you to admit, consent to, or deny the allegations. It is rarely, if ever, a good idea to admit the allegations at the arraignment as that only fast tracks the process of losing your kid(s). Instead of admitting to the petition, a "consent" to the petition will likely result in the formation of a "case plan". This is essentially a contract you enter into requiring that you do certain things in order to remedy the underlying problem that led to the complaint and with the hopes of reunifying you with your child. Lastly, a denial of the petition will result in the setting of an adjudicatory hearing before the Judge and gives you an oppurtunity to challenge the case against you.If DCF can ultimatley convince the Judge that the allegations are true by "clear and convincing" evidence, you can have your parental rights terminated and lose your child forever to adoption

The above is a very cursory explanation of the dependency process. Dependency cases are, in fact, often quite complicated and frequently involve people who also have criminal and/or child custody/divorce cases going on at the same time. As you can gather, the stakes are very high. The importance of being represented by an experienced, thorough, and aggressive trial attorney can not be overstated. 

If you are seeking an attorney who will protect your rights throughout the process and provide zealous advocacy, please call today for a free consultation and case evaluation

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