2010 Arkansas Code
Title 9 - Family Law
Subtitle 3 - Minors
Chapter 27 - Juvenile Courts And Proceedings
Subchapter 4 - Division of Dependency-Neglect Representation
§ 9-27-401 - Creation -- Representation for children and parents.

9-27-401. Creation -- Representation for children and parents.

(a) There is hereby created a Division of Dependency-Neglect Representation within the Administrative Office of the Courts that will be staffed by a court-appointed special advocate coordinator and an attorney coordinator.

(b) (1) The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts is authorized to employ or enter into professional service contracts with private individuals or businesses or public agencies to represent all children in dependency-neglect proceedings.

(2) (A) Before employing or entering into a contract or contracts, the office shall consult with the judge or judges of the circuit court designated to hear dependency-neglect cases in their district plan under Supreme Court Administrative Order Number 14, originally issued April 6, 2001, in each judicial district in accordance with the provisions of 19-11-1001 et seq.

(B) Those obtaining employment or contracts through the office as described in subdivision (b)(3) of this section will be designated as the providers for representation of children in dependency-neglect cases in each judicial district.

(3) (A) The office shall advertise employment and contract opportunities.

(B) The distribution of funds among the judicial districts shall be based on a formula developed by the office and approved by the Juvenile Judges Committee of the Arkansas Judicial Council.

(4) The Supreme Court shall adopt standards of practice and qualifications for service for all attorneys who seek employment or contracts to provide legal representation to children in dependency-neglect cases.

(5) (A) (i) In the transition to a state-funded system of dependency-neglect representation, it is the intent of the General Assembly to provide an appropriate and adequate level of representation to all children in dependency-neglect proceedings as required under federal and state law pursuant to 9-27-316.

(ii) (a) It is recognized by the General Assembly that in many areas of the state, resources have not been available to support the requirement of representation for children at the necessary level.

(b) It is also recognized, however, that in other areas a system has been developed that is appropriately and successfully serving children and the courts.

(iii) With the transition to state funding, it is not the intent of the General Assembly to adversely affect these systems that are working well or to put into place a system that is too inflexible to respond to local needs or restrictions.

(B) In its administration of the system, therefore, the office is charged with the authority and responsibility to establish and maintain a system that:

(i) Equitably serves all areas of the state;

(ii) Provides quality representation;

(iii) Makes prudent use of state resources; and

(iv) Works with those systems now in place to provide an appropriate level of representation of children and courts in dependency-neglect cases.

(c) The director is authorized to:

(1) Establish a statewide court-appointed special advocate program;

(2) Provide grants or contracts to local court-appointed special advocate programs; and

(3) Work with judicial districts to establish local programs by which circuit courts may appoint trained volunteers to provide valuable information to the courts concerning the best interests of children in dependency-neglect proceedings.

(d) (1) The director is authorized to establish a program to represent indigent parents or guardians in dependency-neglect cases.

(2) The court shall appoint counsel in compliance with federal law, 9-27-316(h), and Supreme Court Administrative Order Number 15 in all proceedings to remove custody or to terminate parental rights.

(3) (A) When attorneys are appointed under subdivision (d)(2) of this section, court-appointed attorney fees and reasonable expenses shall be reimbursable as set forth in the office reimbursement guidelines that shall include contracts with attorneys for such fees and reasonable expenses.

(B) Funding for contracts shall be administered from the state, or funds shall be provided to the judicial district for the county to administer the contracts.

(C) All contracts shall be paid from funds appropriated for the purpose of this section.

(4) When a court orders the payment of funds for the fees and expenses authorized by this subsection, the attorney shall transmit a copy of the order to the office or county authorized to pay the funds.

(5) The court may also require the parties to pay all or a portion of the expenses, depending on the ability of the parties to pay.

(6) The office shall establish guidelines to provide a maximum amount of expenses and fees per hour and per case that will be paid under this section.

(7) In order to ensure that each judicial district will have an appropriate amount of funds to utilize indigent parent or guardian representation in dependency-neglect cases, the funds appropriated shall be apportioned based upon a formula developed by the office and approved by the committee.

(8) The office shall not be liable directly to any attorney or indirectly to the Arkansas State Claims Commission for the payment of attorney's fees or expenses except to the extent specific funding is appropriated and available for the purpose of providing indigent parent counsel in dependency-neglect cases.

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