Right to Counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Guardianship/Conservatorship of Children - Parent (incomplete)


Indigent parents in custody cases are entitled to representation by the Office of Public Advocacy if the opposing party is represented by counsel provided by a public agency. Alaska Stat. § 44.21.410(a)(4).  Thus, this right would reach guardianship cases if the opponent is state-funded. See also Alaska R. Admin. 12 (“Appointments may be made in the following types of cases without prior approval of the administrative director, but only in cases in which the required services would not otherwise be provided by a public agency:… (ii) Attorneys for minor children and indigent parents or custodians of minor children in minor guardianship cases brought pursuant to AS 13.26.060(d).”).  The Alaska Supreme Court has said that the Alaska Legal Services Corporation and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are both state-funded "public agencies" for the purpose of this analysis. Flores v. Flores, 598 P.2d 893 (Alaska 1979); In the Matter of Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 264 P.3d 835 (Alaska 2011).


Right to Counsel About Retained Privileges 

Parents who voluntarily relinquish their parental rights may have the right to counsel even after relinquishment in certain hearings about retained privileges included in the guardianship decree.  For example, a parent whose rights were relinquished may retain the ability to have future contact, communication, and visitation with the child. Alaska Stat. § 25.23.180(j).  The court incorporates the privileges into the order terminating parental rights (“termination order”), with a recommendation that the privileges also be incorporated into an adoption or legal guardianship decree. Id.  The right to counsel attaches to the following matters:


  1. The parent seeks "enforcement or modification of or to vacate a privilege retained in the termination order" under Alaska Stat. § 25.23.180(l); or
  2. The child's guardian or prospective adoptive parent seeks to prevent the privilege from being incorporated into the guardianship or adoption order under Alaska Stat. § 25.23.180(m).

Alaska Stat. § 25.23.180(n) ("A person who relinquished parental rights is entitled to the appointment of an attorney if a hearing is requested under (l) or (m) of this section to the same extent as if the parent's rights had not been terminated in a child-in-need-of-aid proceeding.").

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes