§ 2401 Intent and purpose.
(a) The General Assembly hereby declares that there is a need for a clear statutory framework for the proper procedures and requirements for visitation between children and persons other than their parents. The General Assembly further declares that, with the exception of Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF), guardianship as set forth in Chapter 23 of this title is the appropriate legal authority for persons who wish to pursue legal custodial and guardianship rights over a child for which they are not the parent.
(b) This chapter shall be liberally construed so that these purposes may be realized. To that extent, modification of any orders pertaining to visitation involving persons other than parents that were entered under previous versions of the Code shall now be considered under this chapter. Modification of any orders pertaining to custody involving persons other than parents that were entered under previous versions of the Code shall now be considered under Chapter 23 of this title.
§ 2402 Definitions.
For the purposes of this chapter, unless the context indicates differently:
(1) “Abuse” or “abused child” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(2) “Adult” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(3) “Best interests” is determined in accordance with § 722 of this title.
(4) “Child” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(5) “Court” or “court” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(6) “Department” or “DSCYF” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(7) “Dependency” or “dependent child” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(8) “Guardian” is as defined in § 2302 of this title.
(9) “Guardian ad litem” is as defined in § 2302 of this title.
(10) “Licensed agency” is as defined in § 901 of this title.
(11) “Neglect” or “neglected child” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
(12) “Parent” is as defined in § 2302 of this title.
(13) “Relative” is as defined in § 901 of Title 10.
§ 2403 Jurisdiction and venue.
(a) The Family Court shall have jurisdiction over proceedings under this chapter to grant, modify and/or terminate third-party visitation orders.
(b) A petition for third-party visitation under this chapter may be filed in the Family Court of any of the following counties:
(1) The county in which the organization or persons, having legal or physical care, custody, or control of the child is located; or
(2) The county in which the child resides.
(c) The provisions of §§ 722, 724, 728(d)-(f) of this title and Chapter 7A of this title shall be applicable to proceedings filed under this chapter.
§ 2404 Hearing procedure and notice requirements.
(a) When a petition is filed under this chapter, the Court shall set a date for a hearing on the petition, and shall cause notice of time, place and purpose of the hearing to be served as required in this section.
(b) Notice of the time, place and purpose of the hearing shall be served upon the parent or parents, guardian or guardians, person or persons, DSCYF, or licensed agency holding parental rights at the respondent’s last known address or to the address received in the petition.
(c) If the Court shall find that personal service within the State cannot be accomplished upon a party, the petitioner shall cause notice to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the respondent is most likely to be residing.
(d) Personal service at any time prior to the hearing shall be sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the Court.
(e) Notice provided pursuant to this section shall constitute conclusive evidence of service and a hearing will then proceed at the time and date set, with or without the appearance of the parent or parents, guardian or guardians, person or persons, Department, or licensed agency holding parental rights so notified.
§ 2405 Sanctions.
The Court may impose such sanctions or remedies as the Court deems just and proper to ensure compliance with orders entered pursuant to this chapter, including but not limited to:
(1) Extra visitation or contact with the child when it is in the child’s best interest to do so;
(2) The payment of costs and reasonable counsel fees of the person applying for relief under this section;
(3) A fine in the discretion of the Court; or
(4) A term of imprisonment if a person is found to be in contempt of prior orders of the Court.
§ 2406 Confidentiality of proceedings.
All proceedings under this chapter and all records of such proceedings shall be held before the Court privately, except for reasons found sufficient to the Court, a hearing in any particular case may be made open to the public.
§ 2407 Appeals.
Appeal from any order or decree entered under this chapter shall lie to the state Supreme Court. No appeal shall lie from any order or decree under this chapter unless taken within 30 days from the date of such order or decree.