Right to counsel

Litigation, Paternity - Defendant/Respondent

A few courts have found a constitutional right to counsel for an indigent putative father in paternity proceedings. See Madeline G. v. David R., 407 N.Y.S.2d 414, 416 (Fam. Ct. 1978) (where petitioner provided with counsel or "other paternity or support services" by the state, court holds that "this is sufficient 'state action' to trigger both the state and federal constitutional guarantees of due process and to mandate that an indigent respondent be afforded the right to counsel at public expense"); Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Witzel, 398 N.Y.S.2d 86, 87 (Fam. Ct. 1977) (finding right to counsel for putative father based on equal protection, since the mother was provided counsel by statute and important interests were at stake); Clinton L.C. v. Lisa B., 741 N.Y.S.2d 834, 837 (Fam. Ct. 2002) (finding that father seeking to establish paternity had right to counsel; court reasons that because protection of paternity rights is entitled to counsel under section 262, "[e]stablishing the entitlement to parental rights should be no less constitutionally protected than defending against diminution of those rights, especially when, as here, there are legal challenges to be addressed before blood tests can even be ordered"). A few other courts have held to the contrary.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes