Minnesota makes parent counsel mandatory in abuse/neglect cases

Key_development Question_mark

08/03/2021, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

Minn. Stat. § 260C.163, subd. 3(c), which governs the hearing procedures for child protection cases, was modified in 2021 to specify that "In all child protection proceedings where a child risks removal from the care of the child's parent, guardian, or custodian, including a child in need of protection or services petition, an action pursuing removal of a child from the child's home, a termination of parental rights petition, or a petition for permanent out-of-home placement, if the parent, guardian, or custodian desires counsel and is eligible for counsel under section 611.17, the court shall appoint counsel to represent each parent, guardian, or custodian prior to the first hearing on the petition and at all stages of the proceedings. Court appointed counsel shall be at county expense as outlined in paragraph (h)."

In In re Welfare of the Child of A.M.C., 2018 Minn. App. LEXIS 436 (Minn. App. 2018), the court found that the use of the term “parent” rather than “party” in 260C.163 was deliberate, and thus a nonparty adjudicated father should have been entitled to appointed counsel in the CHIPs proceeding (he was appointed counsel for the termination proceeding, and the termination ruling was the order he appealed).  However, the court declined to reverse the termination of parental rights on the basis of this CHIPs appointment failure, since a) the father did not appeal the denial of appointment at the time or specify the reasons why he should be appointed counsel (although notably, the statue imposes no such requirement on the litigant); b) the Court of Appeals could “infer” reasons why the district court might have declined to appoint counsel (like the father’s lengthy incarceration period); and c) the child’s interest in timely permanency, given the fact that the child had been placed out of home for 3 years.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no