Code of the District of Columbia

§ 16–2304. Right to counsel; party status.

(a) A child alleged to be delinquent or in need of supervision is entitled to be represented by counsel at all critical stages of Division proceedings, including the time of admission or denial of allegations in the petition and all subsequent stages. If the child and his parent, guardian, or custodian are financially unable to obtain adequate representation, the child shall be entitled to have counsel appointed for him in accordance with rules established by the Superior Court. In its discretion, the Division may appoint counsel for the child over the objection of the child, his parent, guardian, or other custodian.

(b)(1) When a child is alleged to be neglected or when the termination of the parent and child relationship is under consideration, the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child named in the petition or in a motion to terminate is entitled to be represented by counsel at all critical stages of the proceedings, and, if financially unable to obtain adequate representation, to have counsel appointed in accordance with rules established by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(2) Every report required to be submitted to the Division by this chapter, or otherwise submitted to the Division in any proceeding, shall be served on all counsel and unrepresented parties by mail or by facsimile at the same time it is submitted to the Division.

(3) The Division shall maintain a register of those attorneys who have expressed an interest in being appointed to represent parties or to serve as guardians ad litem in neglect proceedings, and shall attempt insofar as possible to make appointments from the register.

(4)(A) The following individuals, if there are any for the child, and their attorneys, shall be provided notice of, and an opportunity to be heard in, the neglect or termination proceedings:

(i) The child’s current foster parent;

(ii) The child’s current preadoptive parent;

(iii) The child’s current legal guardian or kinship caregiver;

(iv) The child’s therapist; and

(v) A relative or other individual with whom the child is currently placed pursuant to § 16-2320(a)(3)(C).

(B) In addition to the requirements of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, if the child has been living with a person other than the parent, the person shall receive notice of the neglect or termination proceedings and, if the child has been with them for 12 months or more, the person may, upon his or her request, be designated a party to the proceedings. If the child has been living with the person less than 12 months, upon the person’s request, the judge may, at his or her discretion, designate the person a party to the proceedings which pertain to the determination of neglected child as defined in § 16-2301(9). If the parent or other person party to the proceedings is financially unable to obtain adequate representation, counsel shall be appointed according to rules established by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(5) The Superior Court shall in every case involving a neglected child which results in a judicial proceeding, including the termination of the parent and child relationship pursuant to subchapter III of this chapter, appoint a guardian ad litem who is an attorney to represent the child in the proceedings. The guardian ad litem shall in general be charged with the representation of the child’s best interest.

(c) Prior to appointment of counsel under this section, the eligibility of a child or other party to be represented by counsel shall be determined by the Division pursuant to rules established by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(d) There are authorized to be appropriated such funds as may be necessary for the administration of this section.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 587, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 526, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 121(a); Sept. 23, 1977, D.C. Law 2-22, title IV, § 402, 24 DCR 3341; June 4, 1982, D.C. Law 4-114, § 2, 29 DCR 1699; Mar. 13, 1985, D.C. Law 5-129, § 2(b), 31 DCR 5192; June 27, 2000, D.C. Law 13-136, § 301(b), 47 DCR 2850.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-2304.

1973 Ed., § 16-2304.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-831.02, § 16-2306, § 16-2308, § 16-2311, § 16-2312, and § 16-2313.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-136 rewrote subsecs. (b)(2) through (d), inclusive, which previously read:

“(b)(2) The Division shall maintain a register of those attorneys who have expressed an interest in being appointed to represent parties or to serve as guardians ad litem in neglect proceedings, and shall attempt insofar as possible to make appointments from the register.

“(3) If the child has been living with a person other than the parent, the person shall receive notice of the neglect or the termination proceedings and, if the child has been with them for twelve (12) months or more, the person may, upon his or her request, be designated a party to the proceedings. If the child has been living with the person less than twelve (12) months, upon the person’s request the judge may, at his or her discretion, designate the person a party to the procedings proceedings which pertain to the determination of neglect as defined in D.C. Code, section 16-2301. If the parent or other person party to the proceedings is financially unable to obtain adequate representation, counsel shall be appointed according to rules established by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Superior Court shall in every case involving a neglected child which results in a judicial proceeding, including the termination of the parent and child relationship pursuant to subchapter III of this chapter, appoint a guardian ad litem who is an attorney to represent the child in the proceedings. The guardian ad litem shall in general be charged with the representation of the child’s best interest.

“(c) Prior to appointment of counsel under this section, the eligibility of a child or other party to be represented by counsel shall be determined by the Division pursuant to rules established by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

“(d) There are authorized to be appropriated such funds as may be necessary for the administration of this section.”

Cross References

Public defender service, eligibility for services, see § 2-1602.

Representation in criminal cases, indigents, see § 11-2601 et seq.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 301(b) of the Adoption and Safe Families Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-117, July 28, 1999, 46 DCR 6558).

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 301(b) of the Adoption and Safe Families Legislative Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-178, November 2, 1999, 46 DCR 9714).

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 301(b) of the Adoption and Safe Families Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-240, January 11, 2000, 47 DCR 556).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 301(b) of Adoption and Safe Families Temporary Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Law 13-56, March 7, 2000, law notification 47 DCR 1978).