(1) All procedures, including petitions, pleadings, subpoenas, summonses, and hearings, in this chapter shall be conducted according to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure unless otherwise provided by law. Parents must be informed by the court of their right to counsel in dependency proceedings at each stage of the dependency proceedings. Parents who are unable to afford counsel must be appointed counsel.
(2) The circuit court has exclusive original jurisdiction of all proceedings under this chapter, of a child voluntarily placed with a licensed child-caring agency, a licensed child-placing agency, or the department, and of the adoption of children whose parental rights have been terminated under this chapter. Jurisdiction attaches when the initial shelter petition, dependency petition, or termination of parental rights petition, or a petition for an injunction to prevent child abuse issued pursuant to s. 39.504, is filed or when a child is taken into the custody of the department. The circuit court may assume jurisdiction over any such proceeding regardless of whether the child was in the physical custody of both parents, was in the sole legal or physical custody of only one parent, caregiver, or some other person, or was not in the physical or legal custody of any person when the event or condition occurred that brought the child to the attention of the court. When the court obtains jurisdiction of any child who has been found to be dependent, the court shall retain jurisdiction, unless relinquished by its order, until the child reaches 21 years of age, with the following exceptions:
(a) If a young adult chooses to leave foster care upon reaching 18 years of age.
(b) If a young adult does not meet the eligibility requirements to remain in foster care under s. 39.6251 or chooses to leave care under that section.
(c) If a young adult petitions the court at any time before his or her 19th birthday requesting the court’s continued jurisdiction, the juvenile court may retain jurisdiction under this chapter for a period not to exceed 1 year following the young adult’s 18th birthday for the purpose of determining whether appropriate services that were required to be provided to the young adult before reaching 18 years of age have been provided.
(d) If a petition for special immigrant juvenile status and an application for adjustment of status have been filed on behalf of a foster child and the petition and application have not been granted by the time the child reaches 18 years of age, the court may retain jurisdiction over the dependency case solely for the purpose of allowing the continued consideration of the petition and application by federal authorities. Review hearings for the child shall be set solely for the purpose of determining the status of the petition and application. The court’s jurisdiction terminates upon the final decision of the federal authorities. Retention of jurisdiction in this instance does not affect the services available to a young adult under s. 409.1451. The court may not retain jurisdiction of the case after the immigrant child’s 22nd birthday.
(3) When a child is under the jurisdiction of the circuit court pursuant to this chapter, the circuit court assigned to handle dependency matters may exercise the general and equitable jurisdiction over guardianship proceedings under chapter 744 and proceedings for temporary custody of minor children by extended family under chapter 751.
(4) Orders entered pursuant to this chapter which affect the placement of, access to, parental time with, adoption of, or parental rights and responsibilities for a minor child shall take precedence over other orders entered in civil actions or proceedings. However, if the court has terminated jurisdiction, the order may be subsequently modified by a court of competent jurisdiction in any other civil action or proceeding affecting placement of, access to, parental time with, adoption of, or parental rights and responsibilities for the same minor child.
(5) The court shall expedite the resolution of the placement issue in cases involving a child who has been removed from the parent and placed in an out-of-home placement.
(6) The court shall expedite the judicial handling of all cases when the child has been removed from the parent and placed in an out-of-home placement.
(7) Children removed from their homes shall be provided equal treatment with respect to goals, objectives, services, and case plans, without regard to the location of their placement.
(8) For any child who remains in the custody of the department, the court shall, within the month which constitutes the beginning of the 6-month period before the child’s 18th birthday, hold a hearing to review the progress of the child while in the custody of the department.
(9)(a) At each stage of the proceedings under this chapter, the court shall advise the parents of the right to counsel. The court shall appoint counsel for indigent parents. The court shall ascertain whether the right to counsel is understood. When right to counsel is waived, the court shall determine whether the waiver is knowing and intelligent. The court shall enter its findings in writing with respect to the appointment or waiver of counsel for indigent parents or the waiver of counsel by nonindigent parents.
(b) Once counsel has entered an appearance or been appointed by the court to represent the parent of the child, the attorney shall continue to represent the parent throughout the proceedings. If the attorney-client relationship is discontinued, the court shall advise the parent of the right to have new counsel retained or appointed for the remainder of the proceedings.
(c)1. A waiver of counsel may not be accepted if it appears that the parent is unable to make an intelligent and understanding choice because of mental condition, age, education, experience, the nature or complexity of the case, or other factors.
2. A waiver of counsel made in court must be of record.
3. If a waiver of counsel is accepted at any hearing or proceeding, the offer of assistance of counsel must be renewed by the court at each subsequent stage of the proceedings at which the parent appears without counsel.
(d) This subsection does not apply to any parent who has voluntarily executed a written surrender of the child and consents to the entry of a court order terminating parental rights.
(10) Court-appointed counsel representing indigent parents at shelter hearings shall be paid from state funds appropriated by general law.
(11) The court shall encourage the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office to provide greater representation to those children who are within 1 year of transferring out of foster care.
(12) The department shall be represented by counsel in each dependency proceeding. Through its attorneys, the department shall make recommendations to the court on issues before the court and may support its recommendations through testimony and other evidence by its own employees, employees of sheriff’s offices providing child protection services, employees of its contractors, employees of its contractor’s subcontractors, or from any other relevant source.