Many of our family law cases have allegations of child abuse or neglect. The Florida Department of Children and Families is often involved in some way. Frequently, there are also criminal charges pending.
When the Florida DCF is involved.
Reports of child abuse or neglect are investigated by the Florida Department of Children and Families along with the police. However, it is my experience that the quality of DCF investigators and investigations varies widely. In my opinion, a DCF investigator can wreck a family unit very quickly.
When a DCF investigator contacts a parent, the first thing that comes to mind is losing your children. Unfortunately, the DCF investigators use this to their advantage to pressure parents to make statements. Frequently, the DCF investigator will use the threat of a Shelter Hearing to obtain a statement from a parent.
Shelter Hearings in Child Abuse/Neglect Cases.
Shelter Hearings are speedy summary hearings to determine if a child should be temporarily removed from a home and placed in DCF custody. When the DCF moves forward with a Shelter Hearing, the parent is the last person to know. A DCF investigator will inform a parent of a Shelter Hearing by phone the night before the hearing. Consider yourself lucky if you get a day’s notice of the Shelter Hearing. As expected, parents appear at these hearings without an attorney, which is always a bad idea.
Making Statements to DCF.
The DCF will try very hard to get a parent to make a statement before the parent can speak with a lawyer. Making such a statement to DCF without the advice of a lawyer is common but not advisable. Any statement you make to DCF can be used against you in other cases. If criminal charges are pending, a statement to a DCF investigator can be used to convict you. A DCF statement can also be used in your divorce or paternity case to limit time sharing with your child.
In closing, dealing with the DCF without having an attorney to represent you can have disastrous results. Do not, ever, ever agree to give a statement to a DCF investigator without having first consulted with an attorney.
Call a lawyer immediately if you are contacted by the DCF!
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