Colorado adds right to counsel for older children in abuse/neglect cases

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04/17/2022, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

Previously, Colorado law required appointment of an attorney ad litem to represent all children in abuse/neglect cases.  But in 2022, the law was revised to require the appointment of client-directed counsel for children 12 or older.


Colorado Revised Statute § 19-3-203(1) specifies that "Upon the filing of a petition under section 19-3-502 that alleges abuse or neglect of a minor child, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for any child who is under twelve years of age.  The guardian ad litem must be an attorney-at-law licensed to practice in Colorado and approved by the Office of the Child's Representative created in Section 13-91-104."  Then, § 19-3-203(2) specifies:

Upon the filing of a petition pursuant to section 19-3-502 that alleges abuse or neglect of a child, the court shall appoint counsel for youth for any child or youth who is twelve years of age or older. The counsel for youth must be an attorney-at-law licensed to practice in colorado and approved by the office of the child's representative created in section 13-91-104.the court may appoint the same attorney, as long as the attorney does not assert there is a conflict of interest as defined under the applicable rules of professional conduct, to represent the best interests of younger siblings who are under twelve years of age as a guardian ad litem and to represent youth in the sibling group who are twelve years of age or older as a counsel for youth. Until the court's jurisdiction is terminated, appointment of counsel for youth pursuant to this section continues. A child's or youth's right to counsel may not be waived.nothing in this section limits the power of the court to appoint counsel for youth prior to the filing of a petition for good cause.


Additionally, 2022 legislation added Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-7-309.5(1), which provides that when a youth voluntarily seeks extended foster care, the youth must be appointed counsel for the hearing to establish such extended care.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes



The NCCRC provided supportive testimony for the 2022 legislation.