Georgia Legislature establishes right to independent counsel for children in deprivation cases

Key_development Question_mark

01/01/2013, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

Previously, children only had a right to counsel if they were "not represented" by their parents' counsel. However, Ga. Code Ann. § 15-11-103 was amended in 2013, and now states:


A child and any other party to a proceeding under this article shall have the right to an attorney at all stages of the proceedings under this article ... The court shall appoint an attorney for an alleged dependent child. The appointment shall be made as soon as practicable to ensure adequate representation of such child and, in any event, before the first court hearing that may substantially affect the interests of such child ...A child's attorney owes to his or her client the duties imposed by the law of this state in an attorney-client relationship ... If an attorney has been appointed to represent a child in a prior proceeding under this chapter, the court, when possible, shall appoint the same attorney to represent such child in any subsequent proceeding ... An attorney appointed to represent a child in a dependency proceeding shall continue the representation in any subsequent appeals unless excused by the court.


Ga. Code Ann. § 15-11-104 additionally requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child.  An attorney appointed under § 15-11-103 may also serve as the child’s GAL, unless “there is conflict of interest between the attorney's duty to such child as such child's attorney and the attorney's considered opinion of such child's best interests as guardian ad litem.” § 15-11-104(b).  Furthermore, § 15-11-104(d) provides, “A court shall appoint a CASA to act as [GAL] whenever possible, and a CASA may be appointed in addition to an attorney who is serving as a [GAL].” 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no