Dependency proceedings are civil matters where the state intervenes in the affairs of a family and the right to parent. The interests at stake are so important that lower income individuals are afforded a public defender in such matters, just as in criminal law. Individuals who do not qualify for a public defender should obtain private counsel for the best possible advocacy in these sensitive matters. Dependency proceedings begin when someone makes an accusation that a child has been abandoned, abused or neglected, or doesn’t have a parent available to care for her. Abuse is what is called a legal term of art, including some behavior the average person probably wouldn’t include, and excluding others he would probably include. There are many players—the parents, both of whom may get an attorney, the children, each of whom may also get an attorney or a Guardian Ad Litem, the social worker from the Department of Health and Social Services, a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, and possibly more. This is subject matter that even the most experienced attorneys find mind boggling. If you’re facing dependency proceedings you need an attorney like Jeff, skilled in both negotiation and litigation, and unafraid to take on the power of the state.