The right to an attorney for a a person accused of child abuse or neglect in Family Court begins only at the first court appearance, not at a preceding child safety conference.
A parent, for example, may come into contact with the Administration for Children Services (ACS) after a report is filed that the parent has been neglectful of a child. Even before ACS files a neglect petition in Family Court, it will schedule a child safety conference that the parent is expected to attend.
In the recent case of X. McC, decided by the Appellate Division, 1st Department, the court held that ACS could bar the respondent’s attorney from the conference.
If you are contacted by ACS with an allegation of child abuse or neglect, you should contact a lawyer. You can ask ACS to allow your lawyer into their meeting, but be aware that you may not be able to have your lawyer with you. If a petition is filed against you in Family Court you can then have your lawyer with you.