According to SCOTUSBlog, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to counsel in a civil contempt hearing for failure to pay child support. I have not yet read this opinion, but according to SCOTUSBlog:
The Supreme Court unanimously held on Monday in Turner v. Rogers (No. 10-10) that a father has no automatic due process right to counsel in a civil contempt proceeding, even when he is facing jail time for failing to pay child support.
Further, the article states that “substitute procedural safeguards” are to be given to parents who have not paid child support. These safeguards would go towards a determination of whether the Defendant was able to pay child Support.
To compare this situation to Ingham County, Michigan, Defendants here are afforded counsel in civil contempt proceedings for Failure to Pay Child Support. Currently, attorneys in Ingham County can receive appointments to child Support cases on a rotating basis. For the current month, June, I have been working these cases as appointed counsel.
While not commenting on the Supreme Court decision, I feel that the procedures in Ingham County are ones that should be taken advantage of if you find yourself before the court for a civil contempt proceeding regarding child Support. Of course, there is always the possibility of hiring your own attorney for the proceeding, but, if you can not afford one, it is good to know that there will be counsel there to fight for you in the proceeding. A lot of the hearing takes place before even the civil contempt hearing, where the accused or his attorney will meet with a representative of the Friend of Court in order to make an agreement towards paying back the child support.
It is important to keep in mind that while the situation may seem overwhelming at times, having your attorney learn your situation and what you are able to pay is very important. Your attorney will get an understanding of your circumstances and hopefully work out an agreement that will keep you out of jail. One thing to keep in mind when you find yourself in this position is to make sure your attorney is aware of your child support payment history. That is an important factor in coming to an agreement that both sides can live with.
Ultimately, when talking about the right to counsel in these situations, while the Supreme Court has not deemed it a right, counties like Ingham County are providing an important service.