Right to counsel

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Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Children

Previously, courts were only required to appoint a client-directed attorney for children in "all critical stages" of the abuse/neglect case and only if the child was indigent. Miss. Code Ann. § 43–21–201(1).  Terminations stemming from abuse/neglect matters were considered a "critical stage." Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-151(1) (giving youth court exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings involving "a child in need of supervision, a neglected child, an abused child or a dependent child", except in certain limited circumstances).


However, in 2023, Mississippi enacted HB 1149, which expanded the right to counsel to all minors, regardless of indigency. Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-201(1)(a), (c).  It also removed the qualifying word "critical." Id.

Additionally, the court must appoint a guardian ad litem in all cases. Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-121(1), (4).  However, the child's GAL may serve in a dual role unless the child's wishes conflict with the GAL's recommendations, in which case the court "shall retain the guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of the child and appoint an attorney to represent the child's preferences." Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-201(1)(c).  Note that a dual role is also prohibited where the court appoints a layperson as guardian ad litem. Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-121(4).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes