2023 Florida Statutes< Back to Statute Search
Title V JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39 PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
SECTION 507Adjudicatory hearings; orders of adjudication.
39.507 Adjudicatory hearings; orders of adjudication.—
(1)(a) The adjudicatory hearing shall be held as soon as practicable after the petition for dependency is filed and in accordance with the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, but no later than 30 days after the arraignment.
(b) Adjudicatory hearings shall be conducted by the judge without a jury, applying the rules of evidence in use in civil cases and adjourning the hearings from time to time as necessary. In a hearing on a petition in which it is alleged that the child is dependent, a preponderance of evidence will be required to establish the state of dependency. Any evidence presented in the dependency hearing which was obtained as the result of an anonymous call must be independently corroborated. In no instance shall allegations made in an anonymous report of abuse, abandonment, or neglect be sufficient to support an adjudication of dependency in the absence of corroborating evidence.
(2) All hearings, except as provided in this section, shall be open to the public, and a person may not be excluded except on special order of the judge, who may close any hearing to the public upon determining that the public interest or the welfare of the child is best served by so doing. The parents or legal custodians shall be allowed to obtain discovery pursuant to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, provided such discovery does not violate the provisions of s. 39.202. Hearings involving more than one child may be held simultaneously when the children involved are related to each other or were involved in the same case. The child and the parents, caregivers, or legal custodians of the child may be examined separately and apart from each other.
(3) Except as otherwise specifically provided, nothing in this section prohibits the publication of the proceedings in a hearing.
(4) If the court finds at the adjudicatory hearing that the child named in a petition is not dependent, it shall enter an order so finding and dismissing the case.
(5) If the court finds that the child named in the petition is dependent, but finds that no action other than supervision in the child’s home is required, it may enter an order briefly stating the facts upon which its finding is based, but withholding an order of adjudication and placing the child’s home under the supervision of the department. If the court later finds that the parents of the child have not complied with the conditions of supervision imposed, the court may, after a hearing to establish the noncompliance, but without further evidence of the state of dependency, enter an order of adjudication and shall thereafter have full authority under this chapter to provide for the child as adjudicated. If the child is to remain in an out-of-home placement by order of the court, the court must adjudicate the child dependent.
(6) If the court finds that the child named in a petition is dependent, but chooses not to withhold adjudication or is prohibited from withholding adjudication, it shall incorporate that finding in an order of adjudication entered in the case, briefly stating the facts upon which the finding is made, and the court shall thereafter have full authority under this chapter to provide for the child as adjudicated.
(7)(a) For as long as a court maintains jurisdiction over a dependency case, only one order adjudicating each child in the case dependent shall be entered. This order establishes the legal status of the child for purposes of proceedings under this chapter and may be based on the conduct of one parent, both parents, or a legal custodian.
(b) However, the court must determine whether each parent or legal custodian identified in the case abused, abandoned, or neglected the child or engaged in conduct that placed the child at substantial risk of imminent abuse, abandonment, or neglect. If a second parent is served and brought into the proceeding after the adjudication and if an evidentiary hearing for the second parent is conducted, the court shall supplement the adjudicatory order, disposition order, and the case plan, as necessary. The petitioner is not required to prove actual harm or actual abuse by the second parent in order for the court to make supplemental findings regarding the conduct of the second parent. The court is not required to conduct an evidentiary hearing for the second parent in order to supplement the adjudicatory order, the disposition order, and the case plan if the requirements of s. 39.506(3) or (5) are satisfied. With the exception of proceedings pursuant to s. 39.811, the child’s dependency status may not be retried or readjudicated.
(c) If a court adjudicates a child dependent and the child is in out-of-home care, the court shall inquire of the parent or parents whether the parents have relatives who might be considered as a placement for the child. The parent or parents shall provide the court and all parties with identification and location information for such relatives. The court shall advise the parents in plain language that:
1. Parents must take action to comply with the case plan so permanency with the child may occur within the shortest period of time possible, but no later than 1 year after removal or adjudication of the child.
2. Parents must stay in contact with their attorney and their case manager and provide updated contact information if the parents’ phone number, address, or e-mail address changes.
3. Parents must notify the parties and the court of barriers to completing case plan tasks within a reasonable time after discovering such barriers.
4. If the parents fail to substantially comply with the case plan, their parental rights may be terminated and that the child’s out-of-home placement may become permanent.
(8) At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing, if the child named in the petition is found dependent, the court shall schedule the disposition hearing within 30 days after the last day of the adjudicatory hearing. All parties shall be notified in writing at the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing by the clerk of the court of the date, time, and location of the disposition hearing.
(9) An order of adjudication by a court that a child is dependent shall not be deemed a conviction, nor shall the child be deemed to have been found guilty or to be a criminal by reason of that adjudication, nor shall that adjudication operate to impose upon the child any of the civil disabilities ordinarily imposed by or resulting from conviction or disqualify or prejudice the child in any civil service application or appointment.
(10) After an adjudication of dependency, or a finding of dependency in which adjudication is withheld, the court may order a person who has custody or is requesting custody of the child to submit to a mental health or substance abuse disorder assessment or evaluation. The order may be made only upon good cause shown and pursuant to notice and procedural requirements provided under the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure. The assessment or evaluation must be administered by an appropriate qualified professional, as defined in s. 39.01 or s. 397.311. The court may also require such person to participate in and comply with treatment and services identified as necessary, including, when appropriate and available, participation in and compliance with a mental health court program established under 1chapter 394 or a treatment-based drug court program established under s. 397.334. In addition to supervision by the department, the court, including the mental health court program or treatment-based drug court program, may oversee the progress and compliance with treatment by a person who has custody or is requesting custody of the child. The court may impose appropriate available sanctions for noncompliance upon a person who has custody or is requesting custody of the child or make a finding of noncompliance for consideration in determining whether an alternative placement of the child is in the child’s best interests. Any order entered under this subsection may be made only upon good cause shown. This subsection does not authorize placement of a child with a person seeking custody, other than the parent or legal custodian, who requires mental health or substance abuse disorder treatment.
History.—s. 20, ch. 78-414; s. 9, ch. 84-311; s. 7, ch. 87-133; s. 12, ch. 94-164; s. 231, ch. 95-147; s. 12, ch. 95-228; s. 68, ch. 98-403; s. 30, ch. 99-193; s. 11, ch. 2006-86; s. 4, ch. 2006-97; s. 12, ch. 2008-245; s. 2, ch. 2016-127; s. 83, ch. 2016-241; s. 10, ch. 2017-151; s. 4, ch. 2019-128.
1Note.—As amended by s. 83, ch. 2016-241. The amendment by s. 2, ch. 2016-127, uses the reference “s. 394.47892” instead of the reference “chapter 394.”
Note.—Former ss. 39.408(2), 39.409.