Do Parents Have a Right to Counsel in Child Welfare Cases?

Do Parents Have a Right to Counsel in Child Welfare Cases?The Right of Legal Representation

When a child is removed from the home or parental rights are up for termination, the court must be involved. Many parents feel as if they have to defend their very right to be a parent in court, and indeed attending child welfare hearings can be an intimidating and emotionally charged experience. The good news is you have a right to an attorney during these case proceedings.

If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, the Office of Parental Representation will appoint you one for your case. You will be appointed a public defender who will advise you of your rights and advocate on your behalf during the court proceedings. The attorney will explain what happens during the proceedings, provide reasonable defense efforts against the allegations, and can help you get visitation with your child, place your child with a relative, and even help you access services such as counseling or substance abuse treatment.

Your child also has rights. Your child will be appointed a Law Guardian. This is an attorney who represents only your child in the case. The Law Guardian will represent your child, present your child’s wishes to the court, and protect his or her best interests throughout the case.

You have a right to an attorney, but not all attorneys are created equal. Public defenders are attorneys who represent you, but they ultimately work for the government. They typically have large caseloads and sometimes cannot provide you with thorough legal assistance every step of the way. For this reason, you should consult with a New Jersey child welfare attorney if you are defending yourself against allegations of child abuse or neglect. A private attorney may be able to provide you with more personalized assistance and support during the court proceedings. A skilled child welfare attorney will also know the best defense for your case and can aggressively fight on your behalf. While a public defender may be required to provide you reasonable defense efforts, this is no substitute for a seasoned child welfare attorney with years of experience helping parents get their children back.

The decision is ultimately yours, so make sure you discuss your case with a private attorney so you can make an educated decision about what kind of representation you need. Even if you don’t decide to hire a private attorney, a simple consultation can help you know what to expect from your public defender so you can ensure they are doing all they can for you and your case.

Are you involved in a child welfare case? Williams Law Group, LLC can help ensure your rights as a parent are protected and can serve as your advocate every step of the way. Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

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