When a person is charged with a crime, which has the potential of a penalty of time in jail, the court may appoint an attorney to represent their interests. A crime is defined as something more serious than a Petty Misdemeanor. In other words, you are not even eligible for a court appointed attorney unless there is the prospect of being sent to jail. These cases include Misdemeanor, Gross Misdemeanor and Felony allegations.
In order to appoint an attorney, the court must also determine if a person charged with a crime is financially eligible. An application form must be obtained from Court Administration, which must be truthfully completed and verified. If the court determines a defendant does not make enough money to hire counsel, an attorney most often called a "Public Defender" will be appointed.
There are only a few instances in which the court is authorized to appoint an attorney at government expense in a non-criminal matter. These cases only include paternity matters, civil commitment proceedings and occasions where a party is looking at the potential of jail time for contempt of court in child support matters. In all other civil and family matters, an individual is advised to hire their own attorney to represent them in court.