All family lawyers should have a working knowledge of juvenile dependency proceedings especially those lawyers who do pro bono work as a guardian ad litem. Dependency proceedings, like criminal proceedings have mandatory time frames in which certain hearings and other matters must be conducted. Additionally, a party affected by a dependency proceeding must be aware of their right to counsel and generally speaking a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed to represent the interests of the child(ren) involved. Once a child is removed from a home by the Department of Children and Families ("DCF") the court must hold a "Shelter Hearing" within 24 hours from the time of removal. This hearing is similar to a first appearance in a criminal case, and the parents will be heard at that time and evidence will be presented on whether there is sufficient evidence to shelter the child. There are certain rights that the parents of the child(ren) are entitled to at the hearing which are governed by Florida Statutes Section 39. At the time of hearing, the court will enter a written findings of facts regarding whether placement in shelter care is in the best interests of the child.
Within 28 days after the shelter hearing or within 7 days of the date the dependency petition is filed if the child is in out-of-home placement, the Arraignment hearing must take place. The happenings of at the Arraignment Hearing is governed by Florida Statutes 39.506.
If you would like to read more about the specfics of a juvenile dependency hearing go to www.flocourts.org/gen_public/family/bin/benchbook.pdf