Delaware

This page provides a breakdown of all major developments and right to counsel law that the NCCRC knows for this state, sorted by subject area. Click on either tab below to see the aspect it describes.

Color Key Explanation
Categorical Right To Counsel There is a right to counsel without qualification for all indigent individuals in this type of case (except that the individual may be required to request counsel).
Discretionary Appointment Of Counsel Courts are permitted but not required to appoint counsel for any indigent individual in this type of case. A request may be required.
Right Or Appointment Is Qualified The established right to counsel or discretionary appointment of counsel is limited in some way, including: the only authority comes from a lower/intermediate court decision or a city government, not a high court or state legislature; a case has cast doubt on prior authority; a statute is ambiguous; or the right or discretionary appointment is not for all individuals or proceedings within that type of case.
No Such Proceeding This state has no law creating a judicial proceeding of this type.
None While this state does not provide for or require appointment of counsel with respect to the given subject area, it does have something (such as a report or bar policy) that supports the right to or appointment of counsel for this subject area.
Other Because the "Other subject areas” category can include developments from different subject areas that do not work the same way as each other, a blanket categorization of this category is not possible.

Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

The Delaware Supreme Court has said that due process requires a case-by-case determination for appointment of counsel in dependency cases.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Court Rule or Initiative

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

Court rules provide for counsel for indigent parents in abuse/neglect cases on a case-by-case basis.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Delaware grants right to counsel for children in abuse/neglect cases

09/06/2016

A law passed in 2016 requires the court to appoint an attorney for a child to act as guardian ad litem in abuse/neglect cases.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

Read more about this

Court Rule or Initiative

Discretionary appointment of counsel

Children have a right to a best interests attorney or a CASA in abuse/neglect cases, and may be appointed a client-directed attorney.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

Read more about this

Adult Protective Proceedings - Proposed Ward

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

There is a right to counsel for indigent defendants in adult protective services cases.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

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All Basic Human Needs

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel - state employee defendants

A court may appoint counsel for a public officer or employee for a civil action against the person related to his or her employment.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes

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Court Rule or Initiative

Delaware Access to Justice Commission subcommittees call for right to counsel

09/18/2017

A report by several subcommittees of the Delaware Access to Justice Commission urges recognition of a right to counsel for more civil cases.

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Bypass of Parental Input into Abortion - Minor

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

Minors denied a waiver of the parental notice requirement for an abortion have a right to counsel upon request for the appeal.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

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Civil Contempt in Family Court

Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

The Delaware Supreme Court said there is a right to counsel for indigent defendants in state-brought contempt cases if they face incarceration.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

Read more about this

Civil Commitment - Subject of Petition

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

There is a right to counsel for indigent respondents for both general involuntary commitment and substance abuse-related commitment.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

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Civil Forfeiture

Legislation

Legislation: civil forfeiture

04/05/2017

A pending Delaware bill would eliminate civil forfeiture and require appointment of counsel in criminal forfeiture proceedings.

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Custody Disputes - Parents

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

A court may appoint counsel for parties in a divorce proceeding, which includes the custody decision.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel - guardianship of children

Indigent parents may be appointed counsel in proceedings to establish guardianship over a child.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Divorce

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel - divorce

A court may appoint counsel for either side in a divorce proceeding.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Guardianship/Conservatorship of Adults - Ward

Court Rule or Initiative

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

There is a right to counsel in adult guardianship proceedings, although the attorney's exact role is unclear.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

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Housing - Discrimination

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

A court may appoint counsel for either side in a housing discrimination case.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

The Delaware Supreme Court said there is a right to counsel for indigent defendants in state-brought contempt cases if they face incarceration.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

Read more about this

Paternity - Defendant/Respondent

Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

The Delaware Supreme Court has suggested that appointment of counsel may be appropriate in some paternity cases.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes

Read more about this

Quarantine/Inoculation

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel - quarantine

There is a right to counsel for indigent persons for involuntary isolation, quarantine or treatment during a public health emergency.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

Read more about this

Sexually Dangerous Persons - Commitment

Legislation

No such proceeding

There is no procedure in the state for confinement of a sexually dangerous/violent person.

Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Children

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Delaware grants right to counsel for children in termination cases

09/22/2016

A law passed in 2016 requires the court to appoint an attorney for a child to act as guardian ad litem in termination cases.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

Read more about this

Court Rule or Initiative

Discretionary appointment of counsel

Children have a right to a best interests attorney or a CASA in termination cases, and may be appointed a client-directed attorney.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

Read more about this

Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Birth Parents

Litigation

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

Indigent parents may be appointed counsel in adoptions.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

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Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents

Court Rule or Initiative

Key_development Question_mark

Discretionary appointment of counsel

Indigent parents may be appointed counsel in state-initiated termination of parental rights cases, as per a court rule.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no

Read more about this

Truancy - Petition Against Child

Legislation

Key_development Question_mark

Right to counsel

There is no right to counsel for initial truancy proceedings, but rather only for some matters relating to violation of a truancy court order.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

Read more about this

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