2000 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A
By: Representative Guice
House Bill 131
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 93-17-5 AND 93-17-8, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM IS NOT REQUIRED WHEN A CHILD IS TO BE ADOPTED BY CERTAIN RELATIVES; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 93-17-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-17-5. (1) There shall be made parties to the proceeding by process or by the filing therein of a consent to the adoption proposed in the petition, which consent shall be duly sworn to or acknowledged and executed only by the following persons, but not before seventy-two (72) hours after the birth of said child: (a) the parents, or parent, if only one (1) parent, though either be under the age of twenty-one (21) years; or, (b) in the event both parents are dead, then any two (2) adult kin of the child within the third degree computed according to the civil law, provided that, if one of such kin is in possession of the child, he or she shall join in the petition or be made a party to the suit; or, (c) the guardian ad litem of an abandoned child, upon petition showing that the names of the parents of such child are unknown after diligent search and inquiry by the petitioners. In addition to the above, there shall be made parties to any proceeding to adopt a child, either by process or by the filing of a consent to the adoption proposed in the petition, the following:
(i) Those persons having physical custody of such child, except persons having such child as foster parents as a result of placement with them by the Department of Human Services of the State of Mississippi.
(ii) Any person to whom custody of such child may have been awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction of the State of Mississippi.
(iii) The agent of the county Department of Human Services of the State of Mississippi that has placed a child in foster care, either by agreement or by court order.
(2) Such consent may also be executed and filed by the duly authorized officer or representative of a home to whose care the child has been delivered. The child shall join the petition by its next friend.
[Until June 30, 2001, this subsection (3) shall read as follows:]
(3) In the case of a child born out of wedlock, the father shall not have a right to object to an adoption unless he has demonstrated, within the period ending thirty (30) days after the birth of the child, a full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood. Determination of the rights of the father of a child born out of wedlock may be made in proceedings pursuant to a Petition for Determination of Rights as provided in Section 93-17-6.
[From and after July 1, 2001, this subsection (3) shall read as follows:]
(3) In the case of a child born out of wedlock, the father shall not be deemed to be a parent for the purpose of this chapter, and no reference shall be made to the illegitimacy of such child.
(4) If such consent be not filed, then process shall be had upon the parties as provided by law for process in person or by publication, if they be nonresidents of the state or are not found therein, after diligent search and inquiry, or are unknown after diligent search and inquiry; provided that the court or chancellor in vacation may fix a date in termtime or in vacation to which process may be returnable and shall have power to proceed in termtime or vacation. In any event, if the child is more than fourteen (14) years of age, a consent to the adoption, sworn to or acknowledged by the child, shall also be required or personal service of process shall be had upon the child in the same manner and in the same effect as if it were an adult.
(5) If the child is to be adopted by a grandparent, sibling, uncle or aunt a guardian ad litem does not have to be appointed.
SECTION 2. Section 93-17-8, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended 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. 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 required in any proceeding under this chapter except as provided in subsection (1)(b) above and except for the guardian ad litem needed for an abandoned child. Appointment of a guardian ad litem is not required if the child is to be adopted by a grandparent, sibling, uncle or aunt. It shall not be necessary for a guardian ad litem to be appointed where the chancery judge presiding in the adoption proceeding deems it unnecessary and no 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 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2000.