The State of Florida has the authority to investigate allegations that a parent, parents, or the guardian has abused, neglected or abandoned the child or children in their custody. The case usually begins by a report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) either by a mandatory reporter or an anonymous phone call.

If, after an investigation, the DCF determines there is probable cause to believe the allegations are true, a petition will be filed with the court asking that the child be removed from the custody of the parent alleged to be at fault.

Time is of the essence

Within 24 hours of the filing of the petition, the court will hold a “Shelter Hearing.” Although you are not required to have a lawyer present at this hearing, having an attorney like Louise Jones, a West Palm Beach dependency attorney, with you may make a difference in your future ability to maintain custody of your child.

At the Shelter Hearing, you will be asked if you agree with the petition, consent to it or disagree with it and want to fight for custody of your child or children. As the case proceeds and the investigation continues, the state may work with you to have your child returned to your custody if you meet certain conditions. In many of these cases, the state seeks to have parental rights terminated. If your rights are terminated, you will not only lose custody of your child, but you will lose visitation and not be allowed any contact. It will be as though you were never the child’s parent.

Louise Jones P.A. can help

Louise Jones P.A. has more than 25 years of experience in the Florida court system. She knows how to advocate on your behalf and will work zealously to obtain the best possible outcome. It is important for you to have someone like her by your side. You will be faced with a courtroom full of attorneys and professionals. For example, your child’s other parent may have a separate attorney,the state will have an attorney and each of your children will have an attorney advocating for them.

A guardian ad litem for each child will also be present whose duty is to advocate for the best interest of the child. There may be therapists, teachers, doctors, grandparents and attorneys for grandparents. You want a trustworthy and experienced attorney like Louise Jones standing beside you as your advocate.

If reunification with your children is your goal, she will work with you to make that happen. If there are family members willing to take temporary custody of your children during the process of the case, she will strive to work that out.

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