This is the next post in my series on the handling of Department of Child and Families (DCF) cases in Melbourne, Florida. My last post discussed what parents should expect during a DCF investigation. It is important that parents fully comply, and be completely truthful, with an investigating case worker. Failing to do so can lead to the case worker extending their investigation and/or finding the parent not credible. These events would likely increase the chance that the matter proceeds to a formal court case. In this article I will discuss another important topic – the importance retaining an attorney to assist you with a DCF case. Contact our Melbourne family law lawyers today if you or a loved one are in need of assistance. We believe that everyone should receive quality representation and we are ready to assist you.
The first reason why parents should retain an attorney for abuse and neglect hearings is straightforward – the system is not perfect. While DCF is staffed with many qualified and well-intentioned caseworkers, the fact of the matter is that they are human. A caseworker may have a large caseload and, as a result, may not be able to give your matter the time it deserves. Also, as with any other professional, they may view a set of facts different than you do and, for that matter, different than the Court would. If a case is not handled properly by DCF staff, or if the caseworker simply makes a mistake, then the damage to a family may very well be unrepairable. Hiring an attorney to assist you in dealing with case workers, and with the process in general, can help to ensure that your rights are protected as the matter moves forward.
A second reasons to retain counsel for your DCF hearing is that parents who face abuse and neglect allegations may also be charged in the criminal context. Any statements made in the abuse and neglect proceedings would likely be admissible in the accompanying criminal proceeding. This means that a parent may incriminate themselves, and tarnish their criminal record, if they are not careful in the handling of the matter. Experienced counsel will be mindful of the fact that there is a separate criminal proceeding and will take an overall view of the family’s best interests. This includes helping to ensure that a DCF hearing does not result in unnecessary criminal convictions.
Finally, even if the DCF matter is resolved in favor of the accused parent, there is still a chance that the other parent will file for custody of the child. As with the criminal context, discussed above, statements or evidence introduced in the abuse and neglect context will likely be admissible in a subsequent change of custody hearing (the Family Court Judge typically will not hear a change of custody request until after the DCF matter is resolved). Experienced counsel will approach the DCF process with an understanding that a subsequent family law dispute may very well occur. Most family law attorneys who assist you with the DCF case will also be able to assist you with the subsequent custody hearing.
If you are facing abuse & neglect allegations, then contact us today to speak with a Melbourne family law lawyer. Our attorneys are experienced in handling dependency cases and we will take a complete view of your situation when forming a strategy. We understand the urgency of your situation and we will give your case the attention it deserves. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation. We also serve the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.