1999 Regular Session
To: Judiciary; County Affairs
By: Senator(s) Nunnelee
Senate Bill 2906
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 93-17-8, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THAT THE COUNTY MAY PAY THE FEE OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM WHO IS AN ATTORNEY IN CERTAIN PROCEEDINGS IN CHANCERY COURT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 93-17-8, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
93-17-8. (1) Whenever an adoption becomes a contested matter, whether after a hearing on a petition for determination of rights under Section 92-17-6 or otherwise, the court:
(a) Shall, on motion of any party or on its own motion, issue an order for immediate blood or tissue sampling in accordance with the provisions of Section 93-9-21 et seq., if paternity is at issue. The court shall order an expedited report of such testing and shall hold the hearing resolving this matter at the earliest time possible.
(b) Shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child. Such guardian ad litem shall be an attorney, however his duties are as guardian ad litem and not as attorney for the child. The reasonable costs of the guardian ad litem shall be taxed as costs of court unless the chancellor, in his discretion, shall order those costs paid by the county, which order may be entered at any time. Neither the child nor anyone purporting to act on his behalf may waive the appointment of a guardian ad litem.
(c) Shall determine first whether or not the objecting parent is entitled to so object under the criteria of Section 93-17-7 and then shall determine the custody of the child in accord with the best interests of the child and the rights of the parties as established by the hearings and judgments.
(d) Shall schedule all hearings concerning the contested adoption as expeditiously as possible for prompt conclusion of the matter.
(2) In determining the custody of the child after a finding that the adoption will not be granted, the fact of the surrender of the child for adoption by a parent shall not be taken as any evidence of that parent's abandonment or desertion of the child or of that parent's unfitness as a parent.
(3) In contested adoptions arising through petitions for determination of rights where the prospective adopting parents were not parties to that proceeding, they need not be made parties to the contested adoption until there has been a ruling that the objecting parent is not entitled to enter a valid objection to the adoption. At that point the prospective adopting parents shall be made parties by joinder which shall show their suitability to be adopting parents as would a petition for adoption. The identity and suitability of the prospective adopting parents shall be made known to the court and the guardian ad litem, but shall not be made known to other parties to the proceeding unless the court determines that the interests of justice or the best interests of the child require it.
(4) No birth parent or alleged parent shall be permitted to contradict statements given in a proceeding for the adoption of their child in any other proceeding concerning that child or his ancestry.
(5) Appointment of a guardian ad litem is not automatically required in any proceeding under this chapter except (a) as provided in subsection (1)(b) above * * *; (b) for an abandoned child * * *; or (c) where an adoption agency is involved in the proceeding. No final decree of adoption heretofore granted shall be set aside or modified because a guardian ad litem was not appointed unless as the result of a direct appeal not now barred.
(6) The provisions of Chapter 15 of this Title 93, Mississippi Code of 1972, are not applicable to proceedings under this chapter except as specifically provided by reference herein.
(7) The court may order a child's birth father, identified as such in the proceedings, to reimburse the Department of Human Services, the foster parents, the adopting parents, the home, any other agency or person who has assumed liability for such child, all or part of the costs of the medical expenses incurred for the mother and the child in connection with the birth of the child, as well as reasonable support for the child after his birth.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1999.