By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that indigent parents who face losing custody of their children must be appointed an attorney.
A ruling issued Monday overturns a decision to terminate parental rights of a Kona mom who was 15 when she gave birth in 2009. Last year, Family Court determined she couldn't care for her son.
An attorney wasn't appointed for her until the boy was in foster care nearly two years.
The high court says failing to immediately provide the mother with an attorney left her without the necessary help to prepare for the termination hearing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and other public service law groups argued the case shows state policy should guarantee legal counsel for indigent parents who may lose custody.