Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Jersey: Indigent Birth Parents Entitled to Appointed Counsel in Contested Private Adoptions


A state Supreme Court decision Tuesday will help decide the fate of New Jersey children caught in custody battles between their birth parents and prospective adoptive families.

In a written decision released Tuesday, the court ruled that indigent birth parents fighting for their children in contested private adoption proceedings must be told by a judge that they have the right to appointed counsel if they cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

The decision marks a leveling of the two most common types of adoption cases in the state in which a birth mother faces the termination of her parental rights. In cases in which the state Department of Children and Family Services files to terminate a birth parent's rights, judges have been legally obligated to tell poor parents who could not afford legal representation that they are entitled to appointed counsel. Now, the same rule applies to contested cases filed by private people hoping to adopt the birth parents' children.

Read the opinion here.

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