Dependency Court law in Martin and St. Lucie Counties is the last place where you should try to represent yourself. At Dependency Court hearings there will be teams of lawyers and staff from Child Protective Services, Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigators, guardians ad litem, the Dependency Court Judge and others. It is intimidating to say the least. You need a lawyer on your side.
Allegations in Florida of child abuse, failure to protect and neglect may result in a case filed in Martin and St. Lucie County, Florida Dependency Court. If you have been accused of child abuse, abandonment or neglect, it is critical that you retain a lawyer to protect you and your family.
Department of Children and Families
Department of Children and Families (DCF) is tasked with the responsibility for protecting minors from harmful or neglectful parents. Examples of types of cases DCF routinely files include emotional abuse, failing to ensure a child goes to school, physical abuse, failure to protect a child from physical abuse of another, and caring for children while under the influence of drugs.
DCF cases in St. Lucie and Martin County typically commence after someone reports suspected abuse or neglect to DCF. The Department will send an investigator to investigate, typically with a police officer (which is actually just for the protection of the DCF investigator). The Martin County DCF investigator will gather evidence, such as medical records, school records, photographs, statements and drug tests and determine whether to remove the child. All too often the investigations by DCF are flawed. Hiring a Dependency Court lawyer early is key.
Martin and St. Lucie County Shelter Hearings
If DCF decides to remove a child from a home, a “Shelter Hearing” will be scheduled soon after, within 24 hours. Before this time, DCF will assume temporary custody. It is critical to retain your own dependency court attorney to attend your shelter hearing with you. The court may determine to “shelter” your child if there is probable cause to believe that the minor child is neglected, abused or abandoned. Following the shelter hearing, the parent will receive a petition for dependency. An arraignment will be held within 30 days from the date of the removal of your child by DCF. At this arraignment, you, as a parent or guardian, will respond to the abuse allegations. It is critical that you do not do this alone, or agree to use the appointed lawyer. You need a trial lawyer who knows Dependency Court Law in Martin and St. Lucie Counties
Dependency Arraignments in Martin and St. Lucie Counties
Following a shelter hearing, Department of Children and Families will serve on the parent or parents a petition for dependency. An arraignment will be held within 30 days of the child’s removal from the home. At the arraignment, the child’s parent or guardian can respond to the abuse allegations and state their case.
Our Stuart, FL lawyer and Dependency Court Attorney, Christian Van Riper, is a former DCF investigator. Chris is a lifelong and lifelong resident of Stuart, Florida. He is also a former St. Lucie County prosecutor and the head of our Criminal Defense Practice Group. Christian has personally witnessed the destruction of separating children from their parents. He also calls for reform of our State’s Juvenile Justice system. Christian knows his way around the 19th Judicial Circuit Dependency Courtrooms from his years of experience as a DCF Investigator, Prosecutor, Criminal Defense Attorney and St. Lucie and Martin County Dependency Court Attorney. Christian also represents clients in divorce and family law cases with issues regarding the safety of his clients’ children. If you have been contacted by DCF, you should call 772-283-8712 to set an appointment with Christian right away, because DCF actions progress very quickly.