Delaware grants right to counsel for children in termination cases

Key_development Question_mark

09/22/2016, Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Children

13 Del. C. § 2504(f) used to require the court to appoint either an attorney or a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for termination cases.   However, in 2017, the legislature amended 13 Del. C. § 2504(f) to state, “When a petition is filed under this chapter, the Court shall appoint an attorney authorized to practice law in this State or a Court-Appointed Special Advocate to represent the best interests of the child. The Court, in its discretion, may also appoint an attorney to represent the child's wishes. The rights, responsibilities and duties in representing the child's best interests are set forth in § 9007A of Title 29 and Chapter 36 of Title 31. When determining whether to appoint an attorney or Court-Appointed Special Advocate, the Court, in its discretion, should assign the most complex and serious cases to attorneys through the Office of the Child Advocate.”


In turn, Del. Code Ann. tit. 29 § 9007A specifies that the attorney fulfills the role of guardian ad litem, but 9007A(c)(14) adds that “The attorney guardian ad litem shall… Ascertain the wishes of the child and make the child's wishes known to the Court. If the attorney guardian ad litem concludes that the child's wishes differ from the position of the attorney guardian ad litem, he or she will notify the Court of the conflict.”

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no