CHAPTER 17

RELATING TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 11, TITLE 13, DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Chapter 11, Title 13, Delaware Code is amended to read as follows :

CHAPTER 11

TERMINATION AND TRANSFER OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

IN CONNECTION WITH PROCEEDINGS FOR ADOPTION

OR PLACEMENT FOR ADOPTION

§ 1101. Definitions

As used in this chapter-

"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 his parent or parents or any person having parental rights or responsibility and on whose behalf no contacts have been initiated by his parent or parents or any person having parental rights or responsibility;

"Authorized agency" means any agency licensed by the State Department of Public Welfare of Delaware to place children for adoption ;

"Child" means any male or female who has not attained his or her twenty-first birthday.

§ 1102. Jurisdiction and venue

(a) The Orphans' Court shall have jurisdiction of proceedings under this chapter to terminate parental rights.

(b) A petition for termination of parental rights may be

filed in the Orphans' Court of any of the following counties;

(1) The county in which the petitioner resides;

(2) The county in which the organization having legal or physical care, custody or control of the child involved is located;

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

§ 1103. Grounds for termination of parental rights

The procedure for termination of parental rights for the purpose of adoption may be initiated whenever it appears that--

(4) The mother of a child born out of wedlock, or the parent or parents of any child, or the person or persons or organization holding parental rights over such child, desires to relinquish such parental rights; or

(5) Any child has been abandoned ; or

(6) The parent or parents of any child, or any person or persons holding parental rights over such child, are incompetent by virtue of mental illness or feeble-mindedness; or

(7) The parent or parents of any such child, or any person or persons or organization holding parental rights over such child are not fitted to continue to exercise parental rights; or

(8) The mother of a child born out of wedlock is deceased, or that both parents of a child born in wedlock are deceased.

§ 1104. Persons eligible to petition for termination of parental rights

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

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

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

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

(4) The mother only, if her legal husband at the time of the conception of the child was not the natural father of the child. In 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 ;

(5) One parent alone if the other parent is incompetent by virtue of mental illness or feeble-mindedness, or has abandoned the child;

(6) A blood relative of a child whose parents are deceased or who are incompetent by virtue of mental illness or feeble-mindedness, or who have abandoned the child, or who are not fitted to continue to exercise parental rights;

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

(8) An authorized agency or the State Department of Public Welfare.

§ 1105. Contents of petition

(a) The petition for the termination of parental rights shall state the--

(9) Name and place of residence of the petitioner or petitioners ;

(10) Name, sex and date of birth of the child;

(11) Relationship of the petitioner or petitioners to the child, or the fact that no such relationship exists;

(4) Name and address of the mother if the child was born out of wedlock, or the names and addresses of the parents of the child if born in wedlock;

(5) Name and last known address of the person or persons or organization holding parental rights and the name and address of the person or persons or organization having the care, control or custody of the child;

(6) Grounds for termination of parental rights;

(7) Name and address of the person or persons or of the authorized agency or officer thereof or the State Department of Public Welfare or officer thereof for whom or for which parental rights are requested.

(b) Any consents required in § 1106 of this chapter shall accompany the petition as exhibits.

(c) In any case in which a petition for the termination of parental rights has been filed and an authorized agency or the State Department of Public Welfare is a party to the proceedings, there shall be attached to the petition a social report.

§ 1106. Consent requirements; waiver of notice

In the case of proceedings based on § 1103 (1) of this title:

(a) A petition for the termination of parental rights shall be accompanied by the duly notarized consent in writing of the person or persons or organization holding parental rights.

(b) The consent provided for in subsection (a) shall be required from--

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

(2) Both parents of a child born in wedlock except as provided in subparagraph (3) if both parents are living, or from the survivor, if one is deceased, regardless of the marital status of the parents at the time the petition is presented;

(3) The mother only, if her legal husband at the time of the conception of the child was 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. If such a notarized statement of the legal husband cannot be obtained, a notice of hearing shall be sent to him as provided in § 1107;

(4) Any other person or persons or organization holding parental rights.

(c) If the individual in whom the right to consent exists is under the age of twenty-one years, this fact shall not be a bar to the giving of consent nor render the consent when given invalid.

(d) Every petition shall be accompanied by a formal written consent executed by the person or persons or organization for whom or for which parental rights are requested.

(e) If the person or persons or organization holding parental rights wish to waive their right to any and all notice of hearing or right to appear at such hearing, the petition shall be accompanied by a notarized statement to this effect executed by the person or persons or organization holding parental rights.

§ 1107. Hearing procedure; notice of hearing; report

(a) When a petition for the termination of parental rights is filed in which an authorized agency or the State Department of Public Welfare is a party to the proceedings, the Court shall set a date for a hearing thereon, and shall cause notice of the time, place and purpose of the hearing to be served upon the parent or parents, person or persons or organization holding parental rights at his or their last known address ; provided, however, no such notice shall be necessary if a waiver executed by the parent or parents, person or persons or organization holding parental rights has been filed with the petition, in accordance with the provisions of § 1106 (e) of this chapter. The Court may require notice to be served upon any other person or organization.

(b) If the Court shall find that personal service within the State of Delaware cannot be accomplished upon the parent or parents, person or persons or organization holding parental rights, the Court shall then cause notice of the time, place and purpose of the hearing to be published once a week, for three successive weeks, in such newspapers of the county, one or more, as the Court may judge best for giving the defendant notice, the form and wording of said notice to be approved by the Court. Such publication shall constitute conclusive evidence of service and the hearing will then proceed at the time and date set with or without the appearance of the parent or parents, person or persons or organization so notified.

(b) Personal service at any time prior to the hearing shall be sufficient to give jurisdiction.

(b) When a petition for termination of parental rights is filed and an authorized agency or the State Department of Public Welfare is not a party to the proceedings, the Court shall before any hearing order a social study and report on the petition by the State Department of Public Welfare to be filed within sixty (60) days. The Court shall set a date for a hearing to take place after the report is to be filed and notice shall be accomplished as outlined above.

(c) All hearings shall be held before the Court, privately, but, for reasons appearing sufficient to the Court, the hearing in any particular case may be public.

§ 1108. Order of termination and transfer of parental rights

(a) Should the Court find the termination of existing parental rights and their transfer to be in the best interests of the child, it shall make an order terminating such rights in the parent or parents, person or persons or organization in which they have existed and transferring them to some other person or persons, or authorized agency or the State Department of Public Welfare as may, in the opinion of the Court, be best qualified to receive them.

(b) If a child is abandoned by one parent only, the rights of such parent may be terminated without affecting the rights

of the other.

§ 1109. Appeal

The petitioner, if the petition is not granted, or any person or organization whose parental rights have been terminated by the order, may, at any time within thirty (30) days after the making and entry of such decree, take an appeal therefrom to the Supreme Court.

§ 1110. Court costs

All Court costs including costs of giving notice and advertising shall be paid by the petitioners.

§ 1111. Confidential nature of records

All records and dockets pertaining to any termination shall be confidential and shall be kept by the Clerk of the Orphans' Court in a sealed container which shall be opened only by the order of a Judge of the Orphans' Court.

Anyone wishing to inspect any of the papers filed in connection with any termination shall petition a Judge of the Orphans' Court setting forth the reasons for the inspection. The Judge may refer the petition to the State Department of Public Welfare or to an authorized agency for investigation and report. If, in the opinion of the Court, the information is necessary, and the interests of the child, the natural parents or the adoptive parents will not be prejudiced by its disclosure, the Court shall issue an .order permitting the release of the information and setting forth the terms under which it shall be released.

Approved April 7, 1955.