You do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney free of charge in most civil cases. These include dissolution (divorce), custody/parenting time, and child support cases. In these cases you have the option to hire a private attorney, find an attorney in an organization that provides legal services on fee scale depending on your income.
However, in paternity cases, either parent may apply for court-appointed counsel if he/she wants a lawyer and cannot otherwise obtain or pay for a lawyer. Similar to "public defenders," court-appointed attorneys are lawyers who provide free legal representation to persons that qualify based on income, asset and household expense information. The court reviews a person's application and decides whether a court-appointed attorney will be assigned.
In Anoka County, you may apply for a court-appointed attorney on the same day as your paternity court hearing. In some instances, an assigned attorney may proceed to represent you in the hearing on the same day. However, sometimes the court is required to continue your case to allow the appointed attorney sufficient time to prepare.