LA provides discretionary appt of counsel for children in some private TPR matters

06/09/2023, Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Children

In 2023, Louisiana enacted HB 298, which amended the Title covering "Judicial Certification of Children for Adoption" to expand one of the grounds for the termination of parental rights (TPR) related to sex offenses.  Prior to enactment, parental rights could be terminated only where there was "[c]onviction of a sex offense as defined in R.S. 15:541 by the natural parent which resulted in the conception of the child." La. Ch.C. Art. 1015(3).  Under the new law, which moves this ground to its own article, TPR may be sought where there is either "conviction or commission of" such a sex offense.  La. Ch.C. Art. 1015.1 (emphasis added).


Also, the previous version of the statute simply stated that in TPR matters, the parent and child have the "right to be represented by counsel" -- language that ordinarily does not create a right to an appointed attorney.  However, HB 298 added a provision for the discretionary appointment of counsel for the child in TPR matters where termination is sought due to the sex offense grounds:  "For actions brought under Article 1015.1, the court shall have discretion to decide under the circumstances for each case whether to appoint counsel for the child." Art. 1016(A)(2). 


Paragraph (A)(1) clarifies that "Neither the child nor anyone purporting to act on behalf of the child may be permitted to waive the child's right to counsel."  The original version of the bill would have permitted the petitioner to waive the child's right to counsel in cases brought pursuant to Art. 1015.1.


Note:  Adoption petitions under this Title are often brought by a district attorney or child welfare department, but there are narrow circumstances in which they may be brought by foster parents or "any interested party". See La. Ch.C. Art. 1004.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes