2005 Regular Session

To: Judiciary A

By: Representative Franks

House Bill 1545

(As Sent to Governor)



     SECTION 1.  Section 93-15-105, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     93-15-105.  (1)  Any person, agency or institution may file for termination of parental rights in the chancery court or the family or county court sitting as the youth court of the county in which a defendant or the child resides, or in the county where an agency or institution holding custody of the child is located.  The chancery court, or the chancellor in vacation, or the family court, or the family court judge in vacation, or the county court when sitting as the youth court, or such county court judge in vacation, may set the cause for hearing in termtime or in vacation.  The petition shall be triable either in termtime or in vacation, thirty (30) days after personal service of process * * *, and in case of nonresident defendants, or defendants whose addresses are unknown after diligent search, thirty (30) days after completion of publication; such publicationto be otherwise as provided in the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.

     (2)  In all cases involving termination of parental rights, minor parents may be served with process as an adult.

     (3)  In the event that one (1) parent voluntarily releases his child for adoption, a copy of the summons served on the child shall not be required to be served on the releasing parent.

     (4)  In an appropriate case, 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.

     (5)  In the event that an adoptive child was born in a foreign country, the child was put up for adoption in the birth country, and the child has been legally admitted into this country, the thirty (30) days' service of process required by subsection (1) of this section, whether by personal service or publication, may be waived by the controlling court.

     SECTION 2.  Section 93-17-6, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     93-17-6.  (1)  Any person who would be a necessary party to an adoption proceeding under this chapter and any person alleged or claiming to be the father of a child born out of wedlock who is proposed for adoption or who has been determined to be such by any administrative or judicial procedure (the "alleged father") may file a petition for determination of rights as a preliminary pleading to a petition for adoption in any court which would have jurisdiction and venue of an adoption proceeding.  A petition for determination of rights may be filed at any time after the period ending thirty (30) days after the birth of the child.  Should competing petitions be filed in two (2) or more courts having jurisdiction and venue, the court in which the first such petition was properly filed shall have jurisdiction over the whole proceeding until its disposition.  The prospective adopting parents need not be a party to such petition.  Where the child's biological mother has surrendered the child to a home for adoption, the home may represent the biological mother and her interests in this proceeding.

     (2)  The court shall set this petition for hearing as expeditiously as possible allowing not less than ten (10) days' notice from the service or completion of process on the parties to be served.

     (3)  The sole matter for determination under a petition for determination of rights is whether the alleged father has a right to object to an adoption as set out in Section 93-17-5(3).

     (4)  Proof of an alleged father's full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood would be shown by proof that, in accordance with his means and knowledge of the mother's pregnancy or the child's birth, that he either:

          (a)  Provided financial support, including, but not limited to, the payment of consistent support to the mother during her pregnancy, contributions to the payment of the medical expenses of pregnancy and birth, and contributions of consistent support of the child after birth; that he frequently and consistently visited the child after birth; and that he is now willing and able to assume legal and physical care of the child; or

          (b)  Was willing to provide such support and to visit the child and that he made reasonable attempts to manifest such a parental commitment, but was thwarted in his efforts by the mother or her agents, and that he is now willing and able to assume legal and physical care of the child.

     (5)  If the court determines that the alleged father has not met his full responsibilities of parenthood, it shall enter an order terminating his parental rights and he shall have no right to object to an adoption under Section 93-17-7.

     (6)  If the court determines that the alleged father has met his full responsibilities of parenthood and that he objects to the child's adoption, the court shall set the matter as a contested adoption in accord with Section 93-17-8.

     (7)  A petition for determination of rights may be used to determine the rights of alleged fathers whose identity is unknown or uncertain.  In such cases the court shall determine what, if any, notice can be and is to be given such persons.  Determinations of rights under the procedure of this section may also be made under a petition for adoption.

     (8)  Petitions for determination of rights shall be considered adoption cases and all subsequent proceedings such as a contested adoption under Section 93-17-8 and the adoption proceeding itself shall be portions of the same file.

     (9)  Service of process in the adoption of a foreign born child shall be governed by Section 93-15-105(5).

     SECTION 3.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.