CHAPTER 135

PROVIDING FOR TERMINATION AND TRANSFER OF PARENTAL RIGHTS IN CONNECTION WITH ADOPTION

AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE TERMINATION AND TRANSFER OF PARENTAL RIGHTS IN CONNECTION WITH PROCEEDINGS FOR ADOPTION OR PLACEMENT FOR ADOPTION.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met:

Section 1. DEFINITIONS: As used in this Act, the word "abandoned" shall be interpreted as referring to a child who, for a period of one year, has not received any financial help from or any visit from its parent or parents or any person having parental rights or responsibility and on whose behalf no contacts have been initiated by its parent or parents or any person having parental rights or responsibility.

As used in this Act, the phrase "authorized agency" shall be interpreted as referring to any agency licensed by the State Board of Welfare of the State of Delaware to place children for adoption.

As used in this Act, the word "child" shall be interpreted as referring to any male or female who has not attained his or her twenty-first birthday.

Section 2. Whenever it shall appear in connection with the proposed adoption or placement for adoption of any child,

(a) That the parent or parents of such child, or any person or agency having the care, control and custody of such child, is not fitted to continue to exercise parental rights and/or care, control and custody over such child, or

(b) That any such child shall have been abandoned, or

(c) That the parent or parents of any such child, or the person or agency having care, control and custody of any such child, desires to relinquish such parental rights and/or such care, control and custody in order to facilitate the placement for adoption or adoption of the child, the Orphans' Court having jurisdiction of the proceedings may terminate all existing rights of the parent or parents, person or agency then having such rights with reference to such child, and may grant such rights to such person or authorized agency or the State Board of Welfare as may seek them, or to such person or authorized agency or the State Board of Welfare as may, in the opinion of the court, be best qualified to have them. The procedure shall be referred to as "termination of parental rights."

Section 3. A petition for the termination of parental rights may be filed by any of the following:

(a) The mother only of a child born out of wedlock;

(b) Both patents of a child born in wedlock if both parents are living;

(c) The surviving parent of a child born in wedlock, if one parent is dead;

(d) The mother only of a child if, at the time of the child's conception the legal husband of the petitioner is not the natural father of the child. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, a notarized statement of the legal husband that he is not the father of the child, shall be prima facie proof thereof;

(e) Any person or persons or organization who has the actual care or legal custody of the child if the parent or parents or person having parental claim have abandoned the child;

(f) One parent alone if the other parent is hopelessly insane or feeble-minded or has abandoned a particular child;

(g) A relative of a child whose parents are deceased or hopelessly insane or feeble-minded or have abandoned the child;

(h) Any person or persons having legal guardianship of the person of the child;

(i) An authorized agency or the State Board of Welfare for all other cases.

Section 4. CONTENTS OF PETITION; CONSENTS:--The petition for the termination of parental rights shall state:

(a) The name and place of residence of the petitioner or petitioners.

(b) The name, sex and date of birth of the child.

(c) The relationship of the petitioner or petitioners to the child, or the fact that no such relationship exists.

(d) The name and address of the natural mother if the child was born out of wedlock, or the names and addresses of the natural or legal parents of the child if born in wedlock.

(e) The name and last known address of the person or organization having parental rights or holding parental rights over the child.

(f) A statement of the reason why termination of parental rights is sought.

(g) The name of the person or of the authorized agency or officer thereof or the State Board of Welfare or officer thereof for whom or for which parental rights are requested, and the address.

The petition shall be accompanied by a formal written consent executed by the person or agency for whom or for which parental rights are requested.

The petition may be accompanied by a notarized consent to the termination executed by the person or organization holding parental rights, waiving their right to any and all notice of hearing or right to appear at such hearing.

Section 5. A petition for termination of parental rights may be filed in the Orphans' Court of any of the following counties:

(h) The county in which the petitioner or petitioners reside.

(i) The county in which the agency having legal or physical care, custody or control of the child involved is located.

(j) The county in which the child involved is located.

Section 6. NOTICE OF HEARING; WAIVER:--Upon the filing of a petition for the termination of parental rights, the court, upon application of the petitioner, shall set a date for a hearing thereon, and shall cause notice of the time, place and purpose of the hearing to be sent by registered mail to the person or organization holding the parental rights at his or its last known address; provided, however, no such notice shall be necessary if the consent and waiver executed by the person or organization holding parental rights has been filed with the petition, in accordance with the provisions of Section 4 of this Act. The court may require notice to be sent to any other person or organization.

In any case in which a petition for termination of parental rights has been filed and an authorized agency or the State Board of Welfare is not a party to the proceedings, the Court shall order a social study and report on the petition by the State Board of Welfare or an authorized agency to be filed within sixty days.

All hearings and trials shall be had before the Court, privately, in Chambers, provided that for reasons appearing sufficient to the Court the hearing and trial in any particular case may be public.

Section 7. ORDER OF TERMINATION:--At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court, should it find the termination of existing parental rights and their transfer to be in the best interests of the child, shall make an order terminating such rights in the person or organization in which they have existed, and transferring them to some other person, or authorized agency, or the State Board of Welfare. If a child is, abandoned by one parent only, the rights of such parent may be terminated without affecting the rights of the other.

Section 8. APPEAL:--The petitioner, if the petition is not granted, or any person whose parental rights have been terminated by the order, shall have the right at any time within thirty (30) days after the making and entry of such decree to take an appeal therefrom to the Superior Court.

Section 9. REPEALER:--All Acts or parts of Acts inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed to the extent and only to the extent of any such inconsistency.

Section 10. EFFECTIVE DATE:--This Act shall become effective July 1, 1951.

Approved May 28, 1951.