Dependency cases in Georgia, formerly referred to as deprivation cases, are intended to protect children from abuse and neglect. Private dependency cases can be initiated by a relative, caregiver or other concerned person who files Petition with the Juvenile Court alleging that a child is being neglected, abused or that the parents of the child are unable to provide care.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS) can can also initiate a dependency case by filing a petition after receiving a report about the child's care or investigating the matter through its case workers. Upon filing the Petition, the Court issues an order appointing a Guardian Ad Litem for the child and scheduling a hearing within 72 hours.
Dependency Cases proceed in two-stages. The first stage, known as the preliminary protective hearing, requires the Judge to determine if probable cause exists sufficient to believe the child may be abused or neglected and therefore a dependent child.
If the Judge finds probable cause to believe the child may be dependent, a dependency hearing is scheduled within ten days of the preliminary protective hearing and the Judges makes a formal finding of dependency, which requires clear and convincing evidence that the child is presently dependent ( the parent or legal guardian is unable to care for his or her minor child). A finding of dependency requires DFCS to issue a reunification plan outlining what the parents have to do to be reunited with the child.
These types of cases can involve numerous parties including the parents, children, family members, state agencies, and a variety of court-appointed attorneys. Unfortunately, without experienced and skilled legal representation, many parents face long separations form their children or have their parental rights terminated.
If you are seeking the assistance of a juvenile dependency attorney who can represent you in a Georgia juvenile dependency and family court issue, feel free to contact us to discuss your case and options to protect the best interests of the child.