Information About Attorneys

It’s generally advisable for minors to have lawyers in their juvenile cases. The attorney should normally be one who specializes in (or is at least familiar with) juvenile court procedures. Research indicates that effective assistance of counsel can greatly affect a case’s outcome.

For example, attorneys often can help by:

  • Getting cases diverted, or handled informally, so the juvenile isn’t incarcerated and has no juvenile court record
  • Arranging for a juvenile’s release from pre-adjudication detention
  • Keeping juveniles from being tried as adults, and
  • Putting together, and convincing a judge to agree to, a creative and compassionate disposition.

Responsibilities of an Attorney

  • Parents have a right to be represented by an attorney, but are not required to have one.
  • An attorney knows the court process and will handle the legal requirements of the case.
  • An attorney knows your rights and will help protect them.
  • An attorney knows what to expect and will help prepare you for the hearings.

General Information

  • Mothers and Fathers may want to hire separate attorneys. It is not always necessary, but in some cases, parents may need separate representation to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • An attorney will sometimes be assigned to represent the child. This attorney is usually called the guardian ad litem----the guardian ad litem investigates the situation independently from attorneys for DFACS or the parents. The guardian ad litem recommends to the judge what is the best outcome for the child. The Court encourages parents to cooperate with the guardian ad litem so that a true picture of the facts is revealed.

Parents' Rights

  • Court-appointed attorneys are highly qualified lawyers. They are often private attorneys who have agreed to take time from their practice to represent people who cannot afford to hire them privately.
  • In the state of Georgia, parents have the right to an attorney in all deprivation proceedings.
  • Unless you meet certain financial criteria, you must hire and pay for an attorney yourself.
  • If you believe you cannot afford an attorney, you must request that the judge appoint one to represent you.
  • If you are declared unable to pay or indigent, you will be appointed an attorney at no cost.
  • You are not entitled to choose your own court-appointed attorney.
  • You are not entitled to "fire" one court-appointed attorney and then ask for another.