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Abstract

This Comment evaluates New York City’s framework for assigning counsel to Family Court litigants, known as the 18-B system. Recognizing the lack of government support for 18-B attorneys, the author examines existing proposals to alter the Family Court system, and suggests a plan of action for a legislative task force. The Comment outlines the evolution of the assigned counsel system in New York and the history of child welfare policy, and discusses the roles of the Family Court attorneys, judges, and the legislature in maintaining adequate representation for parents. Next, the author examines the aspects of the Family Court and child welfare systems that compromise the ability of 18-B attorneys to provide adequate representation to indigent parents, such as the unbalanced tripartite system of represenation, the adoption of the Safe Families Act of 1997, the inadequacy of personal representation, and the "Welfarization" of family law. Finally, this Comment proposes a spectrum of solutions employing various lawyering and funding models to address the needs of indigent parents and their lawyers. In conclusion, this Comment appeals to the New York State Legislature to implement particular short-term and long-term solutions (such as raising attorney pay) to remedy the immediate assigned counsel crisis and address the harm that lack of adequate parental representation imposes on entire families.

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Family Law Commons

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