Right to counsel

Litigation, Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Birth Parents

In the Matter of the Guardianship of C. M., which involved a parent who had consented to an adoption, the appellate court stated:


The right to custody of one's children and the protection of the integrity of the family from arbitrary governmental action is a fundamental constitutional right. That constitutional right requires that an indigent person have a right to the appointment of counsel in proceedings which may result in either temporary loss of custody or permanent termination of their parental rights. Simple justice demands nothing less in light of the magnitude of the consequences involved.


158 N.J.Super. 585 (1979) (quoting Crist v. N. J. Div. Youth and Family Serv., 320 A.2d 203 (N.J. App. Div. 1974)). Because a contested adoption proceeding may result in the permanent termination of parental rights, the constitutional protection should apply to adoption actions (contested adoption actions, where the birth parent’s parental rights have not already been terminated).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes