Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents

Various statutes guarantee counsel for indigent parents in termination of parental rights proceedings, including appeals.  See Ind. Code §§ 31-35-1-12(7) (right to appointed counsel "throughout any proceedings to terminate the parent-child relationship against the will of the parents"); 31-32-4-1 ("[t]he following persons are entitled to be represented by counsel: . . . (2) [a] parent, in a proceeding to terminate the parent-child relationship ..."); 31-32-4-3 ("If: (1) a parent in proceedings to terminate the parent-child relationship does not have an attorney who may represent the parent without a conflict of interest; and (2) the parent has not lawfully waived the parent's right to counsel ... the juvenile court shall appoint counsel for the parent at the initial hearing or at any earlier time.").


A lawful waiver must be made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. In re Adoption of G.W.B., 776 N.E.2d 952, 954 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002).  The trial court is required to advise the parent of their right to counsel.  Id.see also Keen v. Marion Cty. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 523 N.E.2d 452, 455 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988) (finding mother validly waived her right to counsel where she sought continuance to obtain her own attorney, having been dissatisfied with court appointed counsel; in granting the continuance, court "emphasized over and again the importance of counsel and the seriousness of her decision in the event she had to represent herself.").


The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in September 2010 that the right extends to appeals as a matter of statutory construction, reversing the Indiana Court of Appeals on that point. In re I.B., 933 N.E.2d 1264 (Ind. 2010).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no