CONCORD, N.H. — The state Supreme Court will decide whether New Hampshire should remain one of two states – the other is Mississippi – that require indigent parents to represent themselves in civil abuse and neglect proceedings.

For three decades, New Hampshire parents were provided court-appointed lawyers if they could not afford them, but funding – about $1.2 million a year – was cut during the last legislative session. That prompted New Hampshire Legal Assistance to sue on behalf of parents.

Arguing before the high court Tuesday, attorney Michael Shklar said parents who represent themselves are at a disadvantage compared to the state, which has lawyers and many resources. Abuse and neglect cases are often complicated, he said, and the stakes are high – the potential to lose one’s child.

But attorney Jeanne Herrick, representing the state, said the courts have adopted protocol to ensure parents understand the process. She argued that abuse and neglect proceedings are more informal – and thus easier to navigate – than criminal cases. And she disputed the characterization of the state bringing all its resources to bear against parents, saying only 15 percent of cases result in the state seeking to terminate parental rights.