How DCF Interprets Omissions as Failure To Protect Your Children from Abuse
By Orlando DCF Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Failure to Protect Children From Abuse Can Make You An Offending Parent
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) does not limit itself to targeting parents that abuse their children. It also classifies as “offending parents” mothers and fathers that passively allow abuse or other dangerous conditions to persist.
Quite often, these parents mistakenly believe that the defense of “I didn’t do anything wrong” will protect them. In reality, Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, which governs dependency actions, includes in its definition of “abuse” acts and "omissions” and these acts can lead to an accusation of "failure to protect" their children from abuse. This is what a parent should do to defeat the accusation of failure to protect:
You Must Seek an Injunction to Protect Your Child From Domestic Violence
In cases where one parent has abused a child or the other parent, DCF will insist that the non-aggressor parent immediately seek a permanent injunction for protection against domestic violence. Otherwise you could be accused of “a failure to protect” your child. If you are a parent whose children have been abused, any delay or reluctance on your part to pursue this injunction will ensure that you will also be listed as an offending parent and that your children will be placed in another household, at least temporarily.
This exact scenario recently happened to a mother of two in a child dependency case. Fortunately, acting as her DCF attorney, I secured her reunification with her children, but not before she had to endure over four months of supervised visits.
Not Doing Anything Is Just As Damaging As Doing The Wrong Thing
In the “failure to protect” area of the law there is a gap between what DCF perceives to be “abuse” and how the dependency case law defines it. For example, a Florida appellate court in the cases of L.R. v. Department of Children and Family Services, 947 So.2d 1240, 1245 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007) required that these two “nexuses” (connections) be proven in failure to protect cases:
The acts of the abusing parent demonstrate that he or she will continue the abuse.
The other parent’s behavior shows that he or she will continue to allow the abuse to happen.
In my client’s case, the child dependency judge sheltered her children in another household for over four months, even though she had obtained an injunction against her alleged abuser husband on the same day that DCF began its investigation. My client’s only “omission” was that the injunction was not made permanent (for reasons beyond her control) until a couple of weeks ago. Once the injunction became permanent, DCF dropped its objection to her children being reunified with her.
If your spouse or significant other is putting your children in harm’s way, do not assume that DCF will only go after him or her. You too will be placed in their cross-hairs unless you demonstrate an unflinching commitment to legally separate the abusive parent from your children. Remember, in DCF dependency cases, not doing anything is just as damaging as doing the wrong thing.
How AAA Family Law Can Help You
If you are a parent that has been accused by DCF of failure to protect your children, please call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001, and schedule an initial consultation by phone or at our Altamonte Springs office. At the consultation I will listen to the issues you are having with DCF and outline a plan of legal action. Then I will quote you a fixed or flat retainer fee that you will know before signing or making any payments, not an hourly rate whose total you cannot predict.
These are the ranges of attorney fees charged by AAA Family law for state child dependency cases. The actual fee within the ranges depends on the degree of complexity of each case.
Department of Children & Families Dependency: $3,000 to $5,000.
Domestic Violence Injunction Hearings: $1,000 to $1,500.
For additional information on retainer fees and court costs please click on Our Retainer Fee Policies.
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AAA Family Law
283 Cranes Roost Blvd., Suite 111
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AAA Family Law is located in Altamonte Springs and serves clients throughout the Orlando Metro Area including, but not limited to, the following cities and unincorporated areas, by county: Orange County: Apopka, Bay Lake, Maitland, Ocoee, Orlando, Union Park, Winter Garden, and Winter Park; Seminole County: Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Lake Mary, Longwood, Oviedo, Sanford, and Winter Springs; Volusia County: Daytona Beach, DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, and Orange City; Lake County: Clermont, Leesburg, and Mount Dora; Osceola County: Buena Ventura Lakes, Celebration, and Kissimmee; Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Polk Counties: Four Corners; Orange and Seminole Counties: Goldenrod.