Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

Indigent parents, as well as other respondents in dependency matters, have the right to court appointed counsel if they are indigent.  See Ga. Code. Ann. § 15-11-103(a) ("A child and any custodian or guardian subject to a sworn complaint or affidavit and any other respondent to a proceeding under this article shall have the right to an attorney at all stages of the proceeding under this article."); see also Ga. Code § 15-11-103(g)(2) ("A party other than a child shall be given an opportunity to... [o]btain a court appointed attorney if the court determines that such party is an indigent person.").


The court must inform such parties of their right to counsel before any hearing, and parties are also informed of the right through the summons. See Ga. Code § 15-11-103(g); Ga. Code Ann. § 15-11-160(b) (“A summons shall state that a party is entitled to an attorney in the proceedings and that the court will appoint an attorney if the party is an indigent person.”).  The term “parties” includes putative fathers. Wilkins v. Georgia Dep’t of Hum. Res., 255 Ga. 230, 236 (1985).

Regarding waiver, a party other than a child may only waive their right to counsel if "such waiver is made knowingly, voluntarily, and on the record." Ga. Code § 15-11-103(g)(3).


However, a parent's right to counsel does not extend to certain cases transferred from the superior court to the juvenile court. "In handling divorce, alimony, habeas corpus, or other cases involving the custody of a child," a superior court may transfer questions of custody or child support to the juvenile court for investigation and determination. Ga. Code. Ann. § 15-11-15(a). If the transfer is for investigation and determination, the right to counsel does not apply. Id. at (b) ("If the referral is for investigation and determination, then the juvenile court shall proceed to handle the matter in the same manner as though the action originated under this chapter in compliance with the order of the superior court, except that the parties shall not be entitled to obtain an appointed attorney through the juvenile court.").

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no