New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers: Supreme Court Rules Birth Mom Has Right to Lawyer

Indigent parents have a constitutional right to a lawyer when the Division of Child Protection & Permanency (formerly DYFS) seeks to remove children from their care. Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court expanded this right to include indigent parents sued by foster families or private adoption agencies who are seeking to terminate their parental rights. The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently ruled that because the issues are so complex, often involving various expert witnesses and technical legal procedures, a lawyer must be offered to an indigent mother.

The case began in 2012, when a mother became worried that she was unable to properly care for her special needs daughter. The mother had been homeless, living intermittently in shelters or with a relative. She left her daughter at the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, a private adoption agency, for short-term foster care.

After her daughter was placed with a foster family, the mother did not visit her daughter regularly. The Children’s Home Society encouraged the foster family to adopt the child, filing court papers alleging that the mother had abandoned her daughter and that she was an unfit parent. During the legal proceedings the girl lived with her foster parents who also hired a psychologist to conduct a bonding evaluation. The family had the means to hire an attorney who provided eight witnesses, including an expert.

On the other hand, the Appellate Court found, that during trial, the mother was confused about where to send interrogatories, the role of the expert witnesses, how to give an opening statement, how to cross-examine witnesses, how to present and object to evidence and the legal standards applied to the case. Eventually, the Appellate Court ordered a new trial with the biological mother having appointed counsel. The Appellate Court stated, “When such an irreversible, critical decision is to be made by the court in a situation such as this, an indigent person needs a lawyer.” In re Adoption of Child by J.E.V., 442 Super. 472 at 479.

New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Parents Fight for Child Custody in New Jersey

When it comes to your bond with the children in your life, there is no room for error. You need skilled lawyers in your corner pleading your case. The experienced New Jersey child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have extensive experience in litigating for parental rights. To schedule a consultation, contact us online, or call us today at 908-575-9777.