Discretionary appointment of counsel

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06/06/2023, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

Discretionary appointment for indigent parents accused of abuse or neglect


The court may appoint an attorney to represent an indigent parent accused of child abuse or neglect. Nev. Stat. § 432B.420(1).  


Regarding compensation, § 432B.420(4) provides that appointed counsel, "other than an attorney compensated through a program for legal aid described in NRS 19.031 and 247.305, ... is entitled to the same compensation and payment for expenses from the county as provided ... for an attorney appointed to represent a person charged with a crime." 


In 2023, the Nevada legislature enacted AB 148, amending § 432B.420(1) to reference new sections of the law created by the bill.  The additional sections establish procedures to evaluate the parent or other person's incapacity, procedures regarding court-ordered evaluations as to the parent or person's mental competency, guidelines for decision-making of a GAL on behalf of an incapacitated parent (or other person), and a process to review the appropriateness of placement of a child in a "qualified residential treatment program."  By referencing these sections, the amended law extends the discretionary appointment of counsel to these matters: 

A parent or other person responsible for the welfare of a child who is alleged to have abused or neglected the child may be represented by an attorney at all stages of any proceedings under NRS 432B.410 to 432B.590, inclusive, and sections 32 to 35, inclusive, of this act. ... if the person is indigent, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the person.

Nev. Stat. § 432B.420(1) (emphasis added).


Mandatory appointment for indigent parents of Indian children in matters involving custody or where protective custody is sought


Also in 2023, Nevada passed AB 444, which provides that in a "child custody proceeding", defined as "a matter arising under chapter 432B of NRS [Protection of Children from Abuse and Neglect] in which the legal custody or physical custody of a child is an issue", "the court shall appoint suitable counsel to represent the Indian child's parent or Indian custodian" if the parent or custodian requests counsel, "is without sufficient financial means to employ suitable counsel", and "is determined to be financially eligible for the appointment of such counsel."  

Under the statute, a "child custody proceeding" does not include an emergency proceeding.  But such a situation appears to be covered by Nev. Rev. Stat. § 432B.420(3), which provides that where protective custody of an Indian child is sought, the court must appoint counsel to represent the child's indigent parent. 

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no