Arizona establishes right to counsel for kids in child welfare cases

Key_development Question_mark

04/23/2021, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

The Arizona legislature established a right to counsel for children in child welfare proceedings all the way through permanency in 2021. S.B. 1391, 55th Leg., 1st Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2021).[1]  In 2022, the statute was expanded further to provide a right to counsel through dismissal. S.B. 1073, 55th Leg., 2d Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2022); S.B. 1069, 55th Leg., 2d Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2022).  The right to counsel provision now reads: 

The court shall appoint an attorney for a child in all ... dependency or termination of parental rights proceedings that are conducted pursuant to this title. The court shall appoint the attorney before the first hearing. The attorney shall represent the child at all stages of the proceedings and, in a dependency proceeding, through dismissal.

Ariz. Stat. § 8-221(A).


Under the former Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-221(E), the court could order the juvenile's parent or guardian to pay all or part of the costs of the attorney's services, if the court found that the parent or guardian had "sufficient financial resources."  However, this provision was removed in 2023 by SB 1197.


The section also allows the court to appoint an attorney ad litem "[i]n all juvenile court proceedings in which the dependency petition includes an allegation that the juvenile is abused or neglected." Ariz. Stat. § 8-221(F).  If an attorney ad litem is appointed, they must "meet with the juvenile prior to the preliminary protective hearing, if possible, or within fourteen days after the preliminary protective hearing." Id. at (G).  They are also required to "meet with the juvenile before all substantive hearings[,]" absent "a showing of extraordinary circumstances." Id.


Finally, in a permanent guardianship proceeding within the context of the child welfare code, the court may appoint counsel for the child if a guardian ad litem has not been appointed.  Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-872(D).  However, upon the motion to appoint a permanent successor guardian to the original permanent guardian, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-874(C)(2) specifies that the court shall  "Appoint an attorney for the child and appoint an attorney for the proposed successor guardian, if necessary.”




[1]  The bill’s passage was covered by The Imprint and The Philanthropy Roundtable

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no