Why Non-Offending Parents Must Act Quickly When Children are Taken by the State
There is perhaps nothing scarier for a parent than discovering that your child has been removed from the home and placed into the care and custody of the State of Florida. Often, this occurs when parents are separated or divorced, and the child is with the other parent at the time of removal. Consider this example: You are separated and your ex-partner has the children for the weekend. You receive a phone call from a Child Protective Services worker late in the evening on Saturday, explaining that your children have been taken into care. You are then served with notice to appear at a court hearing in a couple days. If this happens to you, it is time to take immediate and decisive actions to protect your children now. You need to call an aggressive and experienced family law attorney before it is too late.
What is a Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Case?
Anytime there is good cause to believe a minor child has been abused or neglected, the state has a right to take the child into protective custody temporarily in order to determine if there are grounds to make that child a ward of the court. If the court determines that there is a good reason to do so, then custody and guardianship of the child will be awarded to the Department of Children and Families, who will place the child into foster care until parents meet the goals and requirements to regain custody of the children. This can be a lengthy process, and sadly, many parents are never able to get their children home.
What is a Non-Offending Parent?
If you are a parent who has done nothing wrong, then you are likely a non-offending parent. This means perhaps the children were with the other parent at the time that something bad happened. Maybe the other parent was arrested with drugs while caring for the kids. Or, perhaps the other parent physically assaulted the children. Whatever the case may be, if you are innocent and had nothing to do with the abuse or neglect, then the law is clear that you are presumed fit and capable of caring for your children. But it is not always so easy in practice. Over-zealous caseworkers and overworked judges can easily overlook facts and force a non-offending parent to jump through countless unnecessary hoops, undergo services and counseling, and even spend months fighting to regain custody of their children.
What can an Attorney do?
The best chance of getting your kids home fast is to attend the Shelter Care Hearing. Under Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, Rule 8.305(a), when a child is removed from a parent, the state must file for a shelter care hearing within 24 hours. However, this can be continued or delayed for no more than 72 hours.
At this hearing, the local prosecutor’s office, aided by a state investigator, will call witnesses, such as police, and will present other evidence to the judge with the goal of placing the child into the custody of the state. This is perhaps the most critical stage of the proceeding for several reasons.
- Less Evidence. At this early stage, much of the potentially negative evidence the state may later acquire has not yet been uncovered. Therefore, the state’s case may be fairly weak.
- Short Notice. Even though a parent may have very short notice, the same is true for the judge and prosecutor. They will often be working with nothing more than a police report, and the police officer may not even show up. But if the parent shows up without an attorney, there is a good chance of the judge finding good cause for custody and setting the matter for the next step. The problem is, the next step can be up to 30 days away. That is an entire month you would be without your child.
- A Fit Parent can Go Home With Children. If you are a true non-offending parent with no substantial criminal history, you are not a sex offender, and you have no significant substance abuse issues, you have a high likelihood of going home with your child. With an attorney at your side, you can argue that you are a non-offending parent. Without the benefit of time to investigate, the state is at a disadvantage if they have nothing to argue to the contrary.
Getting Help Immediately
Time is of the essence if your child is in temporary custody of the State. Call the dedicated team at the Sejour-Gustave Law Firm, PLLC right away. The sooner we are on the job, the sooner we can prepare for the initial hearing and fight for the return of your children.
Matthew ferkoApril 12, 2021 at 10:13 pm
I’m the non offending parent unfortunately my daughter mother while I was serving time for a DUI took my daughter without my or a judge consent to the state of Pennsylvania and while living with her mom got involved with DCF. The kids where taken from her . DCF tried to get me for abandonment yet I was the sole provider of my daughter, ex and even her daughter and stayed or less say tried to stay in constant contact while up state. The judge dismiss my case. With my permission the girls where given to the grandma down in Florida and that’s the last I heard till I got home beginning of Dec. Where I found out the mother has the girls again. After that she constantly harrassment for money while I was looking for a job and what lil I got I sent gifts to the girls to let them know i love them and still here since she refuses to let me see them or talk to them. Now her case worker Ashley with DCF contacted me to let me have a video visit, which o got one and that was it. I hear nothing from no one not even DCF regarding the case, my daughter, nothing. I tried to reach out to send money, where to and everything. Today April 12 I just recieved call from the girls mother abouti f we sent Madisyn who I help raised and support and not biological mine Easter card since she got My biological daughter one and seen the money. Then she went on about if I recieved anything about child support which she was made to file. I told her no and I believe there must be custody establish through the court first. At point I ask about my child and seeing here or talking and was told not till I pay child support. I have offered to pay my daughter schooling or for her ti give me a acc. And trans. # so I can send it cuz i dont feel or want to send large amount of cash in the mail 1st nor to her mother house 2nd which my daughter does not live at, 3rd I don’t want to send cash cuz there is no proof then I gave anything. Now my daughter mother lied to me before saying I’m court not to contact n it must be supervised by DCF yet there is no such order and today the mother told me she not letting me see my daughter and using her to get money from me which I try too through proper channels but she want it her way and I wont fo that. I copied the texts I send her and the ones today with her statements, of me again offering money through a bank, how I dont see my daughter, or my mother who dieing of stage 4 cancer and how she only calls regarding money which today was about if Madisyn the child who is not biologically mine we sent a card which we did and never about see or talking to the girls or letting us know the girls did get their gifts or money. The DCF case worker does not return my calls or text back when ask about my daughter or anything since she all I had to see my daughter and I now believe my daughter mother is lieing and saying things cuz should text i statement about calling while drink yet one i dont drink nor how she would know when she dont even answer trying to lie and set me up. I need advice and help. Everything is down there and I am stuck in pennsylvania. I just want to be a father and in my daughter life. I’m trying everything to reach and do, except file in court cuz I dont want the girls split up if that the case and my daughter comes and madisyn stay there. There interest is what matter to me and only reason I havent yet . I am lost, no longer know what to do or why everyone is being like this and doing this when I’m trying to be a father and in my daughter life nor refusing to support her but in the right way.
SgfirmlawApril 30, 2022 at 1:39 pm
Matthew I am so sorry to hear what is happening. Based on what you described it does not seem like you will be able to keep the courts out if you want to restore your relationship with your child before she turns 18. I say this because the mother does not want to cooperate with you. Only the courts have authority to provide the result you want of being in your child’s life. We understand completely how hard it can become having to deal with the legal system, but in a case like this it makes a difference.