Termination of Parental Rights in Florida

The prospect of losing access to your child is a terrifying one, but it is the reality for dozens of parents across Pinellas County when an allegation of abuse is registered. Even if the allegation proves to be unfounded, it's vital to be aware of your rights and the process involved so that you have all the information you need to make the right decisions for you and your child. 

Detailed below is information on dependency proceedings, as well as an explanation of your parental rights as they relate to dependency law.

What is Dependency law and what is the process?

Dependency law is a body of legislation that relates to the rights of children and parents when allegations of abuse have been received by the DCF. If DCF believes your child to be at immediate risk, they can remove them from your home. 

Within 24-hours, DCF is required to present evidence as to why the child should remain outside the home to the court, at a Shelter hearing. If the judge agrees the child should remain away from home, the next step in the process is an Arraignment hearing.

At the Arraignment hearing, the parent may either admit the allegations, deny all the allegations and request an adjudication, or agree to a case plan, without an admission of guilt. Each of these courses of action has pros and cons - your legal advisor should provide you with the information you need to decide which option is going to be best.

How are Your Parental Rights Affected by Dependency Proceedings?

The state believes that, where possible, children should be raised by their parents. Where this isn't possible because parents aren't capable of providing a safe, nurturing environment for their child, the state will seek long-term, or permanent removal of the child, with a consequent diminution, and possibly termination, of parental rights.

If Dependency proceedings don't have a successful outcome, or if serious allegations are proven, a Termination of Parental Rights hearing (TPR hearing) will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence from DCF, the parents' legal representative, and a number of professional witnesses. They will then decide whether to terminate parental rights. If this happens, the child will be permanently fostered or adopted.

In most cases, a TPR hearing is scheduled when parents haven't stuck to the case plan agreed during the Arraignment hearing.

Although the state emphasizes its commitment to keeping families together, this is often little reassurance to parents who are going through Dependency proceedings or facing a TPR hearing. 

What type of attorney do I need to represent me?

If you're experiencing these issues and are based in Pinellas County, FL, we strongly recommend seeking expert legal counsel to maximize the chances of getting the outcome you're aiming for. Edward Panzica is an experienced criminal attorney that specializes in Parental Rights and Dependency law in Largo, Clearwater, and Safety Harbor.

Law Offices of Edward M. Panzica provides seasoned legal assistance at all stages of Dependency proceedings. We favor a robust approach and are 100% committed to obtaining the best outcomes possible for every client. Get in touch to arrange an initial appointment.

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