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County must pay for parent's appointed attorney

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Noting a paradigm shift in parental rights termination cases due to House Enrolled Act 1001, one Indiana Court of Appeals judge believed the Department of Child Services instead of the counties should be responsible for the costs of appointed counsel in these types of proceedings.

But the majority in In Re The Termination of the Parental Relationship of J.G., a minor child; S.G., mother, and J.G., father, and Indiana Department of Child Services v. S.G., No. 32A04-0902-JV-79, saw nothing in the recent revision of the relevant statutes to suggest the General Assembly intended to shift the burden of costs from counties to the DCS. It reversed a trial court order and remanded for further proceedings.

The DCS was ordered to pay - over the agency's objection - the appointed attorney fees for S.G. in a termination hearing. It argued it's not statutorily required to pay for appointed counsel to represent parents during termination proceedings.

The majority agreed after reviewing Indiana Code Section 31-40-1-2, which changed following the 2008 enactment of HEA 1001 that took effect Jan. 1, 2009. Prior to the passage of HEA 1001, the statute stated counties were responsible for paying for appointed counsel in termination proceedings; the revised statute now says DCS shall pay the cost of any child services provided by or through the department for any child or the child's parent, guardian, or custodian.

Chief Judge John Baker and Melissa May concluded court appointed counsel doesn't constitute "services" within the meaning of the statute, relying on I.C. Section 31-40-1-1.5(c), which defines the term "services."

"Those 'services' include programs and types of assistance traditionally offered and overseen by DCS, and it is easy to see the logic in the General Assembly's decision to assign the cost of those services to DCS," wrote Chief Judge Baker. "Legal services, on the other hand, are not the types of services traditionally administered by DCS for children and parents. It is not evident, therefore, that the General Assembly intended that legal services be included in the above definition of 'services.'"

The majority also found instructive the fact that other parts of the code dealing with court appointed attorneys places the burden of paying on counties. It also noted unlike the statute dictating DCS pay for costs associated with guardians ad litem and court appointed special advocates, there's no explicit language in the statute to dictate that DCS pay for appointed counsel in termination hearings.

Judge Paul Barnes emphatically dissented, believing HEA 1001 shifted the costs under I.C. Section 31-40-1-2 to DCS.

"If we, as a State and a society, truly believe in the best interests of children and that the proper and appropriate care for them is a priority, we must then, in my opinion, assure that before they are taken from their families, these statutes are strictly followed and the DCS is put to its proof," he wrote.

The judge rejected DCS's argument that paying for appointed counsel for parents will "severely hinder" its goal of protecting children. He considered the appointment of counsel to be child services provided through DCS and that the agency must pay the cost of that service unless an exception applies.

"Because the DCS decides when to seek a termination, it should bear the cost of defending that decision," he wrote. "To heap the cost of these actions on the coffers of already cash-strapped counties is, in my mind, courting a legal and practical disaster."

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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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