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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Title V
Chapter 39
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F.S. 39.01305
39.01305 Appointment of an attorney for a dependent child with certain special needs.
(1)(a) The Legislature finds that:
1. All children in proceedings under this chapter have important interests at stake, such as health, safety, and well-being and the need to obtain permanency.
2. A dependent child who has certain special needs has a particular need for an attorney to represent the dependent child in proceedings under this chapter, as well as in fair hearings and appellate proceedings, so that the attorney may address the child’s medical and related needs and the services and supports necessary for the child to live successfully in the community.
(b) The Legislature recognizes the existence of organizations that provide attorney representation to children in certain jurisdictions throughout the state. Further, the statewide Guardian Ad Litem Program provides best interest representation for dependent children in every jurisdiction in accordance with state and federal law. The Legislature, therefore, does not intend that funding provided for representation under this section supplant proven and existing organizations representing children. Instead, the Legislature intends that funding provided for representation under this section be an additional resource for the representation of more children in these jurisdictions, to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of this chapter, with the cooperation of existing local organizations or through the expansion of those organizations. The Legislature encourages the expansion of pro bono representation for children. This section is not intended to limit the ability of a pro bono attorney to appear on behalf of a child.
(2) As used in this section, the term “dependent child” means a child who is subject to any proceeding under this chapter. The term does not require that a child be adjudicated dependent for purposes of this section.
(3) An attorney shall be appointed for a dependent child who:
(a) Resides in a skilled nursing facility or is being considered for placement in a skilled nursing home;
(b) Is prescribed a psychotropic medication but declines assent to the psychotropic medication;
(c) Has a diagnosis of a developmental disability as defined in s. 393.063;
(d) Is being placed in a residential treatment center or being considered for placement in a residential treatment center; or
(e) Is a victim of human trafficking as defined in s. 787.06(2)(d).
(4)(a) Before a court may appoint an attorney, who may be compensated pursuant to this section, the court must request a recommendation from the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office for an attorney who is willing to represent a child without additional compensation. If such an attorney is available within 15 days after the court’s request, the court must appoint that attorney. However, the court may appoint a compensated attorney within the 15-day period if the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office informs the court that it will not be able to recommend an attorney within that time period.
(b) After an attorney is appointed, the appointment continues in effect until the attorney is allowed to withdraw or is discharged by the court or until the case is dismissed. An attorney who is appointed under this section to represent the child shall provide the complete range of legal services, from the removal from home or from the initial appointment through all available appellate proceedings. With the permission of the court, the attorney for the dependent child may arrange for supplemental or separate counsel to represent the child in appellate proceedings. A court order appointing an attorney under this section must be in writing.
(5) Unless the attorney has agreed to provide pro bono services, an appointed attorney or organization must be adequately compensated. All appointed attorneys and organizations, including pro bono attorneys, must be provided with access to funding for expert witnesses, depositions, and other due process costs of litigation. Payment of attorney fees and case-related due process costs are subject to appropriations and review by the Justice Administrative Commission for reasonableness. The Justice Administrative Commission shall contract with attorneys appointed by the court. Attorney fees may not exceed $1,000 per child per year.
(6) The department shall develop procedures to identify a dependent child who has a special need specified under subsection (3) and to request that a court appoint an attorney for the child.
(7) The department may adopt rules to administer this section.
(8) This section does not limit the authority of the court to appoint an attorney for a dependent child in a proceeding under this chapter.
(9) Implementation of this section is subject to appropriations expressly made for that purpose.
History.s. 1, ch. 2014-227; s. 2, ch. 2018-14; s. 5, ch. 2021-189.