Right to counsel

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Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Birth Parents

Indigent parents have a right to counsel in contested adoption cases.  Parents under the age of 18 may not waive their right to counsel, but parents over the age of 18 may waive the right “if the court is satisfied that the waiver is knowingly and voluntarily made.”  


For parents over the age of 18, if the parent is:  (i) entitled to representation by counsel pursuant to §§ 48.23(2), (2g) or (2m); (ii) counsel is not knowingly and voluntarily waived; and (iii) it appears that the parent is unable to afford counsel in full or if the parent so indicates to the court, the court must refer the parent to the authority for indigency determinations under § 977.07(1).  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 48.23(4).  In any other situation under § 48.23 in which a person “has a right to be represented by counsel or is provided counsel at the discretion of the court, competent and independent counsel shall be provided and reimbursed in any manner suitable to the court regardless of the person's ability to pay … .”  Id.  Parents subject to a petition of termination of parental rights under §§ 48.25 or 48.835 must be notified of their right to counsel in the summons, or if the parent cannot be served, through constructive notice.  Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 48.42(3)(b), 48.42(4)(c)(2). 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no