Parents still get counsel at shelter hearings

The case is G.W. v. Department of Children & Families, — So.3d —-, 2012 WL 2947772 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2012). The father appears at his shelter hearing; he’s appointed counsel, an attorney who is understandably not present at the time; and his child is sheltered then and there. He’s sent off. This happens every day at just about every shelter hearing in the state. The Third DCA says, again, that you can’t do this. Of course it took three months to issue the opinion, so a lot of good it did that father.

The fix to this problem is the 72-hour shelter hearing, which is already allowed by law, but should be required:

The shelter hearing may be continued for up to 72 hours with the child remaining in shelter care if … the parents or legal custodians appear for the shelter hearing without legal counsel and request a continuance to consult with legal counsel.
Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.305(2).
Change that to a “shall” and be done with it. Case law seems to be heading that direction anyway.

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