Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

06/29/2021, Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents

Previously, appointment of counsel for indigent parents in termination of parental rights matters was discretionary, required only "in any case in which [the court] fe[lt] that such an appointment [wa]s appropriate..."  However, the provision was amended in 2021 through H.F. 33 to require appointment for all indigent parents who desire counsel.  The statute currently reads:

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).


Minn. Stat. § 260C.163(3)(c).  Notably, the statute also specifies that the right includes the right to "effective assistance." Id. at (3)(a).

In addition, the right to counsel extends through appeal. Minn. R. Juv. Prot. Rule 36.01 ("Every party and participant has the right to be represented by counsel in every juvenile protection matter, including through appeal, if any."); see also Minn. R. Juv. Prot. Rule 36.02, Subd. 2 ("For purposes of appeal, appointment of counsel in a juvenile protection matter shall be made within three days of the request for counsel. When possible, the trial court attorney should be appointed as appellate counsel.").

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no