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2584Ratification Number: 303Act Number: 285Introducing Body: HouseSubject: Relating to termination of parental rights to abandoned or abused children
(A285, R303, H2584)
AN ACT TO AMEND SUBARTICLE 3 OF ARTICLE 11, CHAPTER 7, TITLE 20, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO ABANDONED OR ABUSED CHILDREN PURSUANT TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA CHILDREN'S CODE SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE FAMILY COURT TO HAVE EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OVER ALL PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, VENUE, AND PARTIES IN PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, THE CONTENTS OF A PETITION FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, SERVICE OF A SUMMONS AND PETITION FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, DETERMINATION BY THE FAMILY COURT JUDGE AS TO WHETHER IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE PARENT OR CHILD TO BE REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL, THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH THE FAMILY COURT MAY ORDER THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, DISPOSITION OF THE PROCEEDINGS, AND CERTAIN ACTION TO BE TAKEN AFTER TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, THE EFFECT OF AN ORDER TERMINATING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD, LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION OF SUBARTICLE 3 TO ENSURE PROMPT JUDICIAL PROCEDURES FOR FREEING MINOR CHILDREN, TO ENSURE CONFIDENTIALITY OF COURT RECORDS OF THE PROCEEDINGS, AND THE PROVISIONS OF SUBARTICLE 3 NOT TO MODIFY OR SUPERSEDE THE GENERAL ADOPTION LAWS OF THIS STATE.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Termination of parental rights
SECTION 1. Subarticle 3 of Article 11, Chapter 7, of Title 20 of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 71 of 1981, is amended to read:
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
Section 20-7-1560. The purpose of this subarticle is to establish procedures for the reasonable and compassionate termination of parental rights where children are abused, neglected, or abandoned in order to protect the health and welfare of such children and make them eligible for adoption by persons who will provide a suitable home environment and the love and care necessary for a happy, healthful, and productive life.
Section 20-7-1562. The Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all proceedings held pursuant to this subarticle. For purposes of this subarticle jurisdiction may continue until the child becomes eighteen years of age, unless emancipated earlier.
Venue exists in the county where the child resides.
Section 20-7-1564. A petition seeking termination of parental rights may be filed by the child protective services agency or any interested party.
Section 20-7-1566. A petition for the termination of parental rights must set forth:
(1) The basis of the court's jurisdiction;
(2) The name, sex, date, and place of birth of the child, if known;
(3) The name and address of the petitioner and the petitioner's relationship to the child;
(4) The names, dates of birth, and addresses of the parents, if known;
(5) The names and addresses of any:
(i) Legal guardian of the child; or
(ii) Person or agency having legal custody of the child; and
(6) The grounds on which termination of parental rights are sought and the underlying factual circumstances.
Section 20-7-1568. A summons and petition for termination of parental rights must be filed with the court and served on the parties below:
(1) The child;
(2) The parents of the child; and
(3) Any agency with placement or custody of the child.
Section 20-7-1570. If the parent is not represented by counsel, the judge shall make a determination on a case by case basis whether counsel is required. If the parent is indigent and counsel is not appointed, the judge shall enter on the record the reasons counsel was not required.
Any child subject to any judicial proceeding under this subarticle must be appointed a guardian ad litem by the Family Court. If the guardian ad litem finds that appointment of counsel is necessary to protect the rights and interests of the child, an attorney must be appointed.
Section 20-7-1572. The Family Court may order the termination of parental rights upon a finding of one or more of the following grounds:
(1) The child or another child in the home has been harmed as defined in Section 20-7-490 (C), and because of the severity or repetition of the abuse or neglect, it is not reasonably likely that the home can be made safe within twelve months. In determining the likelihood that the home can be made safe, the parent's previous abuse or neglect of the child or another child in the home may be considered; or
(2) The child has been removed from the parent pursuant to Section 20-7-736, has been out of the home for a period of six months, and despite a reasonable and meaningful effort by the agency to offer appropriate rehabilitative services, the parent has not remedied the conditions which caused the removal; or
(3) The child has lived outside the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has wilfully failed to visit the child. The court may attach little or no weight to incidental visitations, but it must be shown that the parent was not prevented from visiting by the party having custody or by court order. The distance of the child's placement from the parent's home must be taken into consideration when determining the ability to visit; or
(4) The child has lived outside the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has wilfully failed to support the child. Failure to support means that the parent has failed to make a material contribution to the child's care when contribution has been requested by the custodian of the child. A material contribution consists of either financial contributions according to the parent's means or contributions of food, clothing, shelter, or other necessities for the care of the child according to the parent's means; or
(5) The presumptive legal father is not the biological father of the child, and the welfare of the child can best be served by termination of the parental rights of the presumptive legal father; or
(6) The parent has a diagnosable condition unlikely to change within a reasonable time such as alcohol or drug addiction, mental deficiency, mental illness, or extreme physical incapacity, and the condition makes the parent unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care of the child.
Section 20-7-1574. If the court finds that a ground for termination, as described in Section 20-7-1572, exists it may issue an order forever terminating parental rights to the child.
Where the petitioner is an authorized agency, the court shall place the child in the custody of the petitioner or other child-placing agency for adoption and shall require the submission of a plan for permanent placement of the child within ninety days after the close of the proceedings to the court and to the child's guardian ad litem. Within an additional ninety days thereafter the agency shall submit a report to the court and to the guardian ad litem on the implementation of the plan. The court, on its own motion, may schedule a hearing to review the progress of the implementation of the plan.
Section 20-7-1576. An order terminating the relationship between parent and child under this subarticle divests the parent and the child of all legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties, and obligations with respect to each other, except the right of the child to inherit from the parent. A right of inheritance is terminated only by a final order of adoption.
The relationship between a parent and child may be terminated with respect to one parent without affecting the relationship between the child and the other parent.
Section 20-7-1578. This subarticle must be liberally construed in order to ensure prompt judicial procedures for freeing minor children from the custody and control of their parents by terminating the parent-child relationship. The interests of the child shall prevail if the child's interest and the parental rights conflict.
Section 20-7-1580. All papers and records pertaining to a termination of parental rights are confidential and all court records must be sealed and opened only upon order of the judge for good cause shown.
Section 20-7-1582. The provisions of this subarticle do not, except as specifically provided, modify or supersede the general adoption laws of this State."
Existing law applies to present action
SECTION 2. (A) Any cause of action pending on the effective date of this act may continue under the provisions of law which existed prior to this act.
(B) If any time periods or portions of time periods required under this act have accrued on the effective date of this act, a party may petition for relief in accordance with these provisions.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon approval by the Governor.