It can be frightening to receive a call from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) asking to take your child into custody. Many parents wonder, “Can DCF take my child without a court order?”
The answer is, unfortunately, yes. This blog post will discuss the process that DCF must follow to remove a child from their home without a court order. We will also discuss your rights as a parent and what you can do if you feel your child has been removed unlawfully.
Can DCF Take My Child Without a Court Order?
Yes, DCF can remove a child from their home without a court order if they believe the child is in imminent danger. However, this is only supposed to be done as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. If DCF does take your child without a court order, they must file for an emergency removal within 48 hours.
What is an emergency removal?
An emergency removal is when DCF removes a child from their home without going through the court system first. To do this, DCF must have reason to believe that the child is in imminent danger and that removing the child is in their best interest.
DCF can only remove a child without a court order if they have made all reasonable efforts to keep the child in their home and failed. DCF must also believe that there is no other way to protect the child from harm.
DCF has taken my children; what happens next?
If DCF removes your child without a court order, they must file for an emergency removal within 48 hours. An emergency removal hearing will then be scheduled within 72 hours. At this hearing, the court will decide whether or not to grant DCF emergency custody of the child.
However, this timetable varies from state to state. Suppose in Florida, an emergency custody hearing must be held within 24 hours. This hearing is called a “shelter” hearing. DCF will send notice of the time and location of the shelter hearing to each parent of the child. In dependency cases, parents have a right to an attorney at every stage of proceedings.
If you feel your child has been removed unlawfully, you have the right to contest the emergency removal. You should contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the complex legal system and fight for your rights.
Try to present personally at this hearing. Courts normally want to place children with family members when safe and appropriate. But, if no family members are willing or able to take the children, then the court can give custody to DCF. The length of time that DCF can keep your child in custody will be decided at this hearing.
After an emergency removal hearing, a series of other hearings will be held to determine the child’s future placement. These hearings can be very complex, and it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side who can help you understand the process and fight for your rights.
The first hearing held after an emergency removal is called an arraignment hearing. This hearing is held within 21 days of the child being taken into custody. At this hearing, the court will decide whether or not there is enough evidence to keep the child in DCF custody.
If the court decides that there is not enough evidence to keep the child in DCF custody, the child will be returned to their home. If the court decides that there is enough evidence to keep the child in DCF custody, the case will move forward, and a trial date will be set.
In some cases, DCF will implement a safety plan or request services instead of seeking to remove the children from your care. This is often done when DCF believes the children are at risk of harm, but they do not believe the children are in imminent danger.
A safety plan can include things like requiring the parents to participate in drug testing, counselling, or parenting classes. If you agree to follow the safety plan, your child can stay in your home.
Mediation and acceptance of the case plan:
If DCF decides to remove your child from your home, they must develop a case plan. This case plan will outline the steps you need to take to get your child back. You may sometimes be required to participate in drug treatment, anger management classes, or parenting classes.
The case plan can also require you to maintain regular contact with your child through phone calls, text messages, or visits. Once the case plan is developed, it will be presented to you at a mediation hearing.
At the mediation hearing, you will have the opportunity to accept or reject the case plan. If you accept the case plan, you must follow the plan to get your child back. If you reject the case plan, the case will move forward, and a trial date will be set.
If you reject the case plan or if DCF cannot develop a safety plan that you are willing to follow, the case will move forward, and a trial date will be set. At trial, a judge will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether or not your child should be returned to your home.
The Adjudicatory trial should be held within thirty (30) days of the arraignment hearing. You can present evidence and witnesses at this hearing to prove that your child should be returned to your care.
If the judge decides that your child should not be returned to your home, they can order that your child remain in DCF custody or be placed with a relative or foster parent. The judge can also decide to terminate your parental rights.
After the Adjudicatory trial, you have the right to request a Judicial Review. This is a hearing where you can argue that the judge made a legal error during the trial or that there is new evidence that should be considered.
The Judicial Review must be requested within ten (days) of the Adjudicatory trial. If you do not request a Judicial Review, you can still appeal the decision to a higher court.
Appealing the decision:
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the Judicial Review, you can appeal the decision to a higher court. This is a complex legal process, and it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side. Alternatively, you can watch the below video:
FAQs on Can DCF Take My Child Without a Court Order?
Can I make a complaint against DCF?
If you believe that DCF has acted inappropriately or illegally, you can make a complaint against the agency. You can file a complaint with the Department of Children and Families or the Office of Inspector General.
If you think you were treated unprofessionally by the DCF investigator, you can file a complaint with the Office of Professional Regulation. A written complaint is best, and they will have a specific form they like you to use.
But, you can’t make complaints about the agency to the court. The court can’t do anything about how DCF conducted their investigation or whether they had enough evidence to support their decision to remove your child from your home.
Without a court order, you can’t complain against DCF if they take your child. DCF can only be held accountable if they don’t follow the proper legal process.
How long does DCF have to investigate a case?
DCF has up to 45 days to complete an investigation. If they believe your child is in danger, they can file a Petition for Emergency Protective Services. This petition can extend the investigation by up to 15 days.
If DCF decides to remove your child from your home, they must develop a case plan within 30 days of the child being placed in foster care. The case plan will detail the steps you need to take to get your child back.
What can I do if DCF takes my child without a court order?c
If DCF removes your child from your home without a court order, you can file a Motion to Vacate the Order of Removal. This motion can be filed with the court that issued the order or with the court that has jurisdiction over your case.
You can also file a Motion for Return of Child. This motion can be filed with the court that issued the order or with the court that has jurisdiction over your case.
Do you have to let DCF in your house?
No, you don’t have to let DCF in your house. DFC has the right to enter your home if they have a court order or believe an emergency exists.
If DCF comes to your door and asks to come in, you can ask to see their identification and the court order. You can refuse to let them in if they don’t have a court order. But, again saying, if they think the case is an emergency, they can enter to home without the house owner’s permission.
What to do if DCF wants to take your child?
If DCF wants to take your child, you should immediately contact an attorney. It is important to have legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process and protect your rights.
You have the right to remain silent. You should not answer any questions from DCF until you have spoken to an attorney. Anything that you say can be used against you in court.
Can DCF keep one parent away from their children without a court order?
If DCF believes one parent is abusive or neglectful, they can keep that parent away from their children without a court order. However, if DCF wants to keep both parents away from their children, they must have a court order.
DCF can sometimes act like a bully, but they do so believing that they are protecting children. If you have been away from your child by DFC without any court order, you should go to court for your parental rights. You can also file a Motion for the Return of Child.
Social workers of the Department of Children and Family, DFC can take your child without a court order in some specific circumstances if they believe that your child is in danger. You can file a complaint if you think DFC has not followed the proper legal process.
Actually, cases of DCF can be very complicated. If you are in such a situation, you can best contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you navigate the complex legal