Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CHINS cases: Parents have the right to counsel.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged today that parents are entitled to intervene and to have counsel (appointed if indigent) in Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases when the court is considering granting custody of their children to DSS. Describing the statutory scheme as one capable of "substantial" intrusion on the parent-child relationship and children as "'those most dear' to parents", Justice Ireland (a former Juvenile Court judge) ruled that "pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 29, after a child is adjudicated a child in need of services, a parent is entitled to counsel at the dispositional phase of the proceeding if custody of the child could be granted to the department." In the Matter of HILARY (and a consolidated case), SJC-10036 (argued October 2, 2007, decided February 5, 2008).


MLR said...

February 11, 2008

Mass. Lawyers Weekly - News Story

SJC gives parents right to counsel in CHINS cases

Ruling applies to matters where child custody at issue

By David E. Frank

Family-law attorneys say a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that extends the right to counsel to parents involved in child-in-need-of-services, or CHINS, proceedings will greatly increase the demand for lawyers in thousands of Juvenile Court cases.

"I can't think of the last time the right to counsel has been expanded," said Claudia L. Bolgen of Woburn, who represented one of the parents in In the Matter of Hilary. "What we've seen here is a fundamental change in how parents are going to be treated with respect to CHINS matters. Until now, parents who may not have had the education, language or resource abilities to stand up for themselves and fight efforts to have their kids removed were essentially treated as bystanders. But that's not going to happen any more."

In a case of first impression, the SJC held in In the Matter of Hilary that parents have the same right to counsel as their children in any CHINS proceeding in which the custody status of a minor is at issue.

Read the rest of the article at:

MLR said...

An editorial in today's Boston Globe praises the decision and mentions the CHINS amendments being considered in the Legislature.

See "A break for desperate parents"