CHAPTER 431

FORMERLY

SENATE BILL NO. 392

AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NOS. 1 AND 2

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

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE :

Section 1. Amend Section 1101, Title 13 of the Delaware Code by deleting current subsection (1) and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

“(1) ‘Abandoned’ shall be interpreted as referring to a basis for termination of parental rights as described in Section 1103(a)(2) of this Chapter.”

Section 2. Amend Section 1103, Title 13 of the Delaware Code by deleting the current subsection (a)(2) and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

“(2) The child has been abandoned.

(a) The Court may order a termination of parental rights based upon abandonment if the Court finds that the following occurred and that the respondent intended to abandon the child:

(i) In the case of a minor who has not attained six months of age at the time a petition for termination of parental rights has been filed, and for whom the respondent has failed to:

(a) pay reasonable prenatal, natal, and postnatal expenses in accordance with the respondent's financial means;

(b) visit regularly with the minor; and

(c) manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the minor, if, during this time, the minor was not in the physical custody of the other parent;

(ii) In the case of a minor who has attained six months of age at the time a petition for termination of parental rights is filed, the respondent, for a period of at least six consecutive months in the year preceding the filing of the petition, has failed to:

(a) communicate or visit regularly with the minor; and

(b) manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the minor, if, during this time, the minor was not in the physical custody of the other parent; or

(iii) In the case of a minor who has not attained 6 months of age at the time a petition for termination of parental rights has been filed, and for whom the respondent has manifested the unwillingness to exercise parental rights and responsibilities, as evidenced by the respondent’s placing the minor in circumstances which leave the minor in substantial risk of injury or death;

(b) In cases in which no finding of intent to abandon has been made, the Court may order a termination of parental rights based upon abandonment if the Court finds that the respondent, for a period of at least twelve consecutive months in the 18 months preceding the filing of the petition, has failed to:

(i) communicate or visit regularly with the minor;

(ii) file or pursue a pending petition to establish paternity or to establish a right to have contact or visitation with the minor; and

(iii) manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the minor, if during this time, the minor was not in the physical custody of the parent;

and if the Court finds that one of the following grounds exists:

(i) if the minor is not in the legal and physical custody of the other parent, the respondent is not able or willing promptly to assume legal and physical custody of the minor, and to pay for the minor's support, in accordance with the respondent's financial means;

(ii) if the minor is in the legal and physical custody of the other parent and a stepparent, and the stepparent is the prospective adoptive parent, the respondent is not able or willing promptly to establish and maintain contact with the minor and to pay for the minor's support, in accordance with the respondent's financial means;

(iii) placing the minor in the respondent's legal and physical custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the physical or psychological well-being of the minor because the circumstances of the minor's conception, the respondent's behavior during the mother's pregnancy or since the minor's birth, or the respondent's behavior with respect to other minors, indicates that the respondent is unfit to maintain a relationship of parent and child with the minor; or

(iv) failure to terminate would be detrimental to the minor. In determining whether a failure to termination would be detrimental to the minor, the court shall consider any relevant factor, including the respondent's efforts to obtain or maintain legal and physical custody of the minor, the role of other persons in thwarting the respondent's efforts to assert parental rights, the respondent's ability to care for the minor, the age of the minor, the quality of any previous relationship between the respondent and the minor and between the respondent and any other minor children, the duration and suitability of the minor's present custodial environment, and the effect of a change of physical custody on the minor.

(c) The respondent’s act of abandonment cannot be cured by subsequent conduct.”

Section 3. Amend Section 1103 of Title 13 of the Delaware Code by adding new subsections (a)(7) and (a)(8) to read as follows:

“(7) The parent has subjected the child to torture, chronic abuse, sexual abuse, and/or life-threatening abuse.

(8) The child has suffered unexplained serious physical injury under such circumstances as would indicate that such injuries resulted from the intentional conduct or willful neglect of the parent.”

Section 4. Amend Section 1103(d) of Title 13 of the Delaware Code by deleting "or" from after "(4)", inserting a comma “,” after "(4)", and inserting ", (7) or (8)" after "(6)".

Approved July 13, 2000