You and your child have the right to be represented by a lawyer if you become involved in a juvenile court case in the family division.

A public defender is a lawyer paid by the state who represents people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. To have a public defender represent you in juvenile court, you must apply for their services. Other lawyers, called assigned counsel, also represent parents and children in juvenile cases by agreement with the defender general.

How to Apply for a Public Defender or Assigned Counsel in a Juvenile Case

All parties in a juvenile case (children, parents, and anyone else recognized by the court as a party) have a right to be represented by a lawyer. The court will ordinarily appoint a lawyer to represent the child. The child's lawyer usually works in the public defender's office. In CHINS cases (Children in Need of Services), the court routinely appoints a lawyer to represent the parent(s). Parents’ lawyers are usually, but not always, assigned counsel.

To apply for appointment of a lawyer, you must complete and file an application. If you are requesting a lawyer for yourself as well as your child, you can use one application.

Once you have completed and filed your application, the court clerk reviews it to see if you are eligible for a court-appointed lawyer.

The court clerk uses the financial information you provided and determines the amount you will pay for a lawyer.

You, as the parent, are responsible for any amount you are ordered to pay for the lawyer's services for you or your child unless you hire your own lawyer.

The court clerk and the judge will encourage you to fill out the application, so that you will have a lawyer represent you, if you are eligible.

You may be ordered to pay a minimum fee even if you are receiving public assistance. You may file a written request with the court to reduce the amount you are ordered to pay. If you do not return the application as requested by the court, a maximum fee may be assessed.

Although you are required to pay the amount ordered, your lawyer will continue to help you even if you are not able to make the payments.