Florida Legislature establishes right to counsel for certain dependent children
While a state may have many statutes, court decisions, or court rules governing appointment of counsel for a particular subject area, a "Key Development" is a statute/decision/rule that prevails over the others (example: a state high court decision finding a categorical right to counsel in guardianships cases takes precedence over a statute saying appointment in guardianship cases is discretionary).
04/30/2014, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children
Certain children, including those with developmental disabilities, entitled to counsel
In 2014 the Florida Legislature passed HB 561, which created Fla. Stat. § 39.01305(3) and requires appointment of counsel for certain children in dependency and termination of parental rights cases, such as children with developmental disabilities, those residing in a skilled nursing facility, and children who are victims of human trafficking. New media outlet NationSwell recently discussed the law.
Discretionary appointment of attorney ad litem for all other children
The new law enacted in 2020 expands the existing law governing appointment of counsel for children in Florida. Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.217(a), which covers both dependency and termination of parental rights, provides, "At any stage of the proceedings, any party may request or the court may consider whether an attorney ad litem is necessary to represent any child alleged to be dependent, if one has not already been appointed", while 8.217(b) adds, "The court may appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the child in any proceeding as allowed by law."
Also worthy of note is a statutory provision detailing the legislature's goals for dependent children:
The Legislature finds that the design and delivery of child welfare services should be directed by the principle that the health and safety of children, including the freedom from abuse, abandonment, or neglect, is of paramount concern and, therefore, establishes the following goals for children in shelter or foster care: ... To have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent, within reason, their best interests and, if appropriate, an attorney ad litem appointed to represent their legal interests; the guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem shall have immediate and unlimited access to the children they represent.
Fla. Stat. § 39.4085(1)(t).
Right to attorney for children who are the subject of permanent custody proceedings whose caregiver objects to change in custody
Finally, pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 39.522(3)(b)(4),
Within 7 days after receiving written notice from the caregiver [of the caregiver's objection to the department's official position on the change of physical custody], the court must conduct an initial case status hearing, at which time the court must:
b. Appoint an attorney for the child who is the subject of the permanent custody proceeding, in addition to the guardian ad litem, if one is appointed...
If "yes", the established right to counsel or discretionary appointment of counsel is limited in some way, including any of: the only authority is a lower/intermediate court decision or a city council, not a high court or state legislature; there has been a subsequent case that has cast doubt; a statute is ambiguous; or the right or discretionary appointment is not for all types of individuals or proceedings within that category.
Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes
NCCRC provided some input on the language of HB 561.