How to Get a Free Family Law Attorney on Long Island
Mandated Counsel or 18b Attorneys
In certain Family Court proceedings on Long Island, a party may be entitled to an assigned attorney. This “mandated counsel” is typically referred to as an 18b Attorney. These appointed attorneys are a vital part of Family Court and are critical in protecting certain parental fundamental rights.
Both statutory and constitutional law require that New York State provide counsel to certain individuals financially unable to obtain an attorney. Specifically, in Suffolk County, such assigned counsel is provided under the Suffolk County Assigned Counsel Defender Plan pursuant to County Law Article 18-B, which is where these attorneys get their nickname.
When dealing with Family Court proceedings in particular, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that “an indigent parent, faced with the loss of a child’s society, as well as the possibility of criminal charges is entitled to the assistance of counsel.” In re Ella B., 30 N.Y.2d 352 (1972). The court went on to further emphasize the importance of a parents’ right to the custody and care of their children. The court declared that failure to provide a parent with a lawyer would violate the Constitution. The New York State Legislature went on to codify this right in a range of family law proceedings. These cases range from those involving custody and visitation, to abuse/neglect, termination of parental rights, and family offense proceedings.
Do these Attorneys Only Work in Family Court?
While for the purposes of our practice, we only run into 18b Attorneys in Family Court, 18b Attorneys also handle many other kinds of cases. 18b Attorneys are also critical players in criminal proceedings. They represent indigent defendants in felonies and misdemeanors, including murder cases. These attorneys can also represent defendants in appellate cases.
These attorneys can also be appointed in actions involving State intervention. An 18b Attorney can represent parties in actions involving the State, such as child protective, foster care, and termination of parental rights proceedings.
Obtaining an 18b Attorney
Typically, judges determine who is eligible for an 18b Attorney. Therefore, in order to have an 18b Attorney appointed to you, the judge must first make a determination that you are indigent and cannot afford to hire a private attorney.
What kind of Requirements are Necessary to be an 18b Attorney?
Usually, in order to be placed on the 18b Panel, the Attorney must have participated on multiple occasions in any of the following:
- Permanent Neglect Proceeding
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Support Proceeding
- Litigated Paternity
- Family Offense
- Contested Adoption
Have More Questions About Family Court? Contact Us
If you have further questions regarding your Family Court proceedings, we can help. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-629-2545 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
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