Normally, the right to have a lawyer is associated when someone is with the police, possibly a target of a criminal investigation. Missouri gives you the right to have a lawyer outside any criminal setting, applying that right to the termination of parental rights (TPR) hearings as well.
A recent ruling in the Southern District of Missouri, In re Interest of J.G.W. v. Greene County Juvenile Office, reiterated this right representation during a TPR. During the underlying abuse and neglect case, the mother was represented, but the attorney was allowed to withdraw because she could not get in contact with the mother and the mother was not arriving at court. Two days after the mother’s attorney withdrew, the petition for TPR was filed. Two summonses were sent to the mother’s address, but returned undelivered. The mother did not show up for court and no attorney appeared on her behalf, but the court took away her parental rights. When the mother appealed, the court reversed the judgement because she was never told about her right to have counsel appointed for her if she could not afford one.
R.S.Mo. § 211.462 states “the parent or guardian of the person of the child shall be notified of the right to have counsel, and if they request counsel and are financially unable to employ counsel, counsel shall be appointed by the court.” Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-2205(b) gives the right to counsel in Kansas as well. However, there is no right to notification in Kansas.
If you are concerned about losing your parental rights, contact our office for a consultation.