In some states, at the request of the prosecution, welfare agency, or the court itself, an order will be issued to a family with a child or children to undergo a Dependency and Neglect proceeding. Dependency and Neglect proceedings are a judicial analysis of a family's health, and generally focus on the fitness or condition of a child's parent or guardian.
What is the Purpose of a Dependency and Neglect Proceeding?
States that have Dependency and Neglect proceedings have generally created them to protect the safety, needs, and general welfare of children living in the state. Most Dependency and Neglect proceedings place the needs and interests of a child far ahead of those of a parent or guardian.
How do Dependency and Neglect Proceedings Generally Come Up?
Dependency and Neglect proceedings generally come up in four ways:
- A child commits a juvenile crime,
- A child is overly late to, or absent from school,
- The parents or a parent is involved in a case of domestic violence, or
- The parents or a parent is involved in a direct case of child abuse.
What are the Consequences of a Dependency and Neglect Proceeding?
If a Dependency and Neglect proceeding is ordered for you or your family, outside other punishment for domestic violence or child abuse, you could face any of the following:
- Appoint of a Guardian ad Litem,
- Go through a treatment plan like family counseling,
- Community service,
- Fines, ranging from $50 to $5,000,
- Jail time, ranging from 3 days to 2 years,
- Adverse effects on your child custody arrangement, or
- Termination of parental rights.
Generally speaking, only a court's decision to order a Dependency and Neglect proceeding and the decision to terminate parental rights are subject to an appeal. That means, once you are involved in a Dependency and Neglect proceeding, the court has broad latitude to do as it sees fit in protecting a child's best interest.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Dependency and Neglect Proceeding?
It is highly recommended that you find a family lawyer if you are ordered into a Dependency and Neglect proceeding because of the potentially negative effects it could have on you. Only an attorney can adequately discuss the issues with you and help protect your rights.