Court-Appointed Counsel Required in Adoption Challenges and Termination of Parental Rights Cases

New Jersey Mother has special needs Daughter.

Mother is indigent and opts to put Daughter up for adoption.

Daughter goes to live with adoptive parents.

And somewhere along the way Mother has a change of heart about putting Daughter up for adoption.

At trial on the termination of Mother’s parental rights and Daughter’s adoption, Mother has no legal representation and does her best to represent herself.

But falls short. Mother’s parental rights are terminated.

On appeal, the appellate court holds that Mother should have been assigned court-appointed counsel. Parental rights are fundamental constitutional rights.

The perhaps thornier issue: how will free legal representation be funded?

Possibilities include:

  • the state of New Jersey
  • attorneys practicing in New Jersey or
  • existing legal services providers to the indigent, such as the public defenders office or legal aid.

Read more in this article: Justices Mull Counsel for Indigent Parents Challenging Adoptions.