Mississippi finally guarantees RTC for parents in TPR cases

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05/13/2024, Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents

In 2024, Mississippi joined 46 other states in providing a right to counsel for parents in termination of parental rights cases via passage of SB 2792.  Previously, appointment was merely discretionary.  While appointment of counsel for noncustodial parents in abuse/neglect cases remains discretionary, in TPR cases appointment is mandatory for all indigent parents.


Miss. Code § 43-21-201(2) now states: 


(2)  (a)  When a party first appears before the youth court, the judge shall ascertain whether he is represented by counsel and, if not, inform him of his rights including his right to counsel.  If the court determines that a custodial parent or guardian who is a party in an abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights proceeding is indigent, the youth court judge shall appoint counsel to represent the indigent parent or guardian in the proceeding.  The court may appoint counsel to represent a noncustodial parent if the court determines that the noncustodial parent is indigent and has demonstrated a significant custodial relationship with the child.  All parents have the right to be appointed counsel in termination of parental rights hearings, and the court shall appoint counsel if the court makes a finding that the parent is indigent and counsel is requested by the parent.  For purposes of this section, indigency shall be determined pursuant to Section 25-32-9 and Rule 7.3 of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure.


This change was a long time in coming: a pilot project to provide and study representation for parents across a number of Mississippi counties ran for over a decade, and the results from the pilot helped bolster the ultimate eactment efforts.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no