Current StatusView additional legislative information at the LPITS web site.
Bill Number: 3710 Ratification Number: 771 Act Number 653 Introducing Body: House Subject: To provide for the use of fictitious names in adoption records
(A653, R771, H3710)
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-1736 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE USE OF FICTITIOUS NAMES IN ADOPTION RECORDS; AND TO AMEND SECTION 20-7-420, RELATING TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE FAMILY COURT IN DOMESTIC MATTERS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE COURT TO HEAR AND DETERMINE ACTIONS RELATED TO ADOPTION AS WELL AS FOR ADOPTION; SECTION 20-7-1650, RELATING TO DEFINITIONS PERTAINING TO ADOPTION, SO AS TO DELETE THE REFERENCE TO THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU AND THE DEFINITION OF "LEGAL AGE", REVISE THE DEFINITIONS OF "CHILD PLACING AGENCY", "CONSENT", AND "RELINQUISHMENT", AND DEFINE "COURT"; SECTION 20-7-1670, RELATING TO PERSONS WHO MAY PETITION FOR ADOPTION, SO AS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT SPECIFIC FINDINGS OF FACT MUST EXIST FOR ADOPTION BY A NONRESIDENT, PROVIDE FOR THE JUDICIAL DETERMINATIONS THAT MUST BE MADE BEFORE A CHILD IS PLACED FOR ADOPTION BY A NONRESIDENT, AND PROVIDE FOR A PETITION TO BE BROUGHT BEFORE BIRTH OR PLACEMENT IN AN ADOPTION BY A NONRESIDENT, AND PROVIDE FOR THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE COURT ORDER RULING ON THE PETITION, INCLUDING SPECIFIC FINDINGS OF FACT; SECTION 20-7-1680, RELATING TO JURISDICTION OF ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROCEEDINGS TO BE BROUGHT IN THE COUNTY IN WHICH THE CHILD IS BORN; SECTION 20-7-1690, RELATING TO CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT FOR ADOPTION, SO AS TO REVISE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT IS REQUIRED AND UNDER WHICH COSTS MAY BE ASSESSED AND PAYMENT MADE FOR THE PURPOSE OF ADOPTION; SECTION 20-7-1695, RELATING TO PERSONS FROM WHOM CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT FOR ADOPTION IS NOT REQUIRED, SO AS TO DELETE THE PROVISIONS FOR A PARENT WHO HAS BEEN ADJUDGED INCOMPETENT, PROVIDE FOR A PARENT WHO IS UNLIKELY TO PROVIDE MINIMALLY ACCEPTABLE CARE, PROVIDE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR AN INCOMPETENT PARENT, PROVIDE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT COUNSEL FOR AN INDIGENT AND INCOMPETENT PARENT WHICH MAY BE WAIVED, AND PROVIDE FOR RELINQUISHMENT TO A PERSON FACILITATING THE ADOPTION; SECTION 20-7-1700, RELATING TO THE FORM AND CONTENT OF CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR IT TO SPECIFY WHETHER COUNSELING IS NEEDED OR REQUIRED AND THAT THERE IS NO DURESS OR COERCION INSTEAD OF NO PRESSURE AND DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT IT BE FREELY GIVEN; SECTION 20-7-1705, RELATING TO THE SIGNING OF THE CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT, SO AS TO CHANGE THE REFERENCE TO THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU TO THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, PROVIDE FOR THE DETERMINATIONS WHICH MUST BE MADE FOR A CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT OBTAINED OUTSIDE OF THIS STATE TO BE VALID IN SOUTH CAROLINA, PROVIDE FOR SIGNING OF THE CERTIFICATION TO THE DOCUMENT GIVING CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT, AND PROVIDE FOR CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT TO BE GIVEN WITHOUT DURESS OR COERCION INSTEAD OF KNOWINGLY, INTENTIONALLY, AND FREELY; SECTION 20-7-1730, RELATING TO THE FILING OF THE ADOPTION PETITION, CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT, AND POSTPLACEMENT INVESTIGATION, SO AS TO REVISE THE REQUIREMENTS AS TO WHICH REPORTS AND DOCUMENTS MUST BE FILED AT THE TIME THE ADOPTION PETITION IS FILED, UNLESS GOOD CAUSE IS SHOWN; SECTION 20-7-1732, RELATING TO THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM, SO AS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE APPOINTMENT MUST OCCUR AFTER THE FILING OF THE ADOPTION PETITION, PROVIDE FOR APPOINTMENT BEFORE A HEARING ON THE ADOPTION OR RELATED MATTERS, AND PROVIDE FOR SERVICE OF THE PETITION UPON THE ADOPTEE; SECTION 20-7-1734, RELATING TO NOTICE OF ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS, SO AS TO REQUIRE THE FILING OF THE REASONS FOR CONTESTING, INTERVENING, OR OTHERWISE RESPONDING TO AN ADOPTION; SECTION 20-7-1740, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO ADOPTION INVESTIGATIONS AND REPORTS, SO AS TO REVISE THE REQUIREMENTS IN A PREPLACEMENT AND POSTPLACEMENT INVESTIGATION AND PROVIDE FOR UPDATING OF THE PREPLACEMENT INVESTIGATION REPORT BEFORE THE PLACEMENT OF THE CHILD INSTEAD OF ONE YEAR FROM THE INITIAL REPORT AND EVERY SIX MONTHS; SECTION 20-7-1750, RELATING TO CERTIFICATION OF PERSONS WHO CONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS OR OBTAIN CERTAIN CONSENTS OR RELINQUISHMENTS FOR ADOPTION, SO AS TO CHANGE THE REFERENCES TO CHILDREN'S BUREAU TO DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES; SECTION 20-7-1760, RELATING TO FINAL ADOPTION HEARINGS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR EXTENDING OR SHORTENING THE TIME OF THE HEARING FOR A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD AND FOR THE COURT TO MODIFY THE TIME OF THE HEARING EVEN WHEN THE PETITIONER HAS HAD CUSTODY OF THE ADOPTEE FOR NINETY DAYS; SECTION 20-7-1775, RELATING TO DISBURSEMENTS BY OR ON BEHALF OF THE ADOPTION PETITIONER, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR AN ACCOUNTING OF EXPENSES INCURRED OR FEES FOR SERVICES RENDERED; AND SECTION 20-7-1780, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF HEARINGS AND RECORDS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE SECTION TO APPLY TO FILES AND RECORDS MAINTAINED BY ANY PERSON CERTIFIED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES; SECTION 20-7-1820, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE ADOPTION OF A SPOUSE'S CHILD AND A CHILD RELATED BY BLOOD OR MARRIAGE, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE COURT TO WAIVE THE REQUIREMENT OF THE APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT COUNSEL; AND SECTION 16-3-1060, RELATING TO COMPENSATION FOR THE RELINQUISHMENT OF A CHILD FOR ADOPTION, SO AS TO PROHIBIT THE SELLING OR BUYING OF A MINOR CHILD AND THE RECEIVING OR PAYING OF ANY THING OF VALUE FOR RELINQUISHMENT AND PROVIDE FOR THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH COSTS MAY BE ASSESSED; AND TO PROVIDE FOR ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS IN PROGRESS AND NOT COMPLETED BEFORE THIS ACT'S EFFECTIVE DATE TO BE CARRIED TO CONCLUSION PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS AS THEY EXISTED BEFORE AMENDMENT, UNLESS THE PROCEEDINGS ARE REVISED TO CONFORM AND TO DEFINE "PROCEEDINGS IN PROGRESS".
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Subarticle 7, Article 11, Chapter 7, Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 20-7-1736. For purposes of this subarticle, the petitioner may employ the use of fictitious names where necessary to avoid disclosure of identities of parties or persons, so long as service of process or notice is considered sufficient by the court."
SECTION 2. Section 20-7-420(3) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(3) To hear and determine actions for and related to the adoption of children."
SECTION 3. Section 20-7-1650(e), (f), (g), and (h) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(e) 'Child placing agency' or 'agency' means the State Department of Social Services and any person or entity which is licensed pursuant to Sections 20-7-2230 through 20-7-2290 which receives children for placement for adoption. A person who facilitates the placement of a child for the purpose of adoption who otherwise is not required to be licensed pursuant to Sections 20-7-2230 through 20-7-2290 is not required to be licensed in order to act in this capacity.
(f) 'Consent' means the informed and voluntary release in writing of all parental rights with respect to a child by a parent for the purpose of adoption, or the informed and voluntary
release in writing of all custodial or guardianship rights, or both, with respect to a child by the child placing agency or person facilitating the placement of the child for adoption where the child's parent previously has executed a relinquishment to that agency or person.
(g) 'Court' means any family court in this State.
(h) 'Relinquishment' means the informed and voluntary release in writing of all parental rights with respect to a child by a parent to a child placing agency or to a person who facilitates the placement of a child for the purpose of adoption and to whom the parent has given the right to consent to the adoption of the child."
SECTION 4. Section 20-7-1670 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1670. Any South Carolina resident may petition the court to adopt a child. Placement of children for adoption pursuant to this Subarticle 7, Article 11, Chapter 7 of Title 20 is limited to South Carolina residents with exceptions being made in the following circumstances only:
(a) the child is a special needs child, as defined by Section 20-7-1650;
(b) there has been public notoriety concerning the child or child's family, and the best interests of the child would be served by placement outside this State;
(c) the child is to be placed for adoption with a relative related biologically or by marriage;
(d) at least one of the adoptive parents is in the military service stationed in South Carolina; or
(e) there are unusual or exceptional circumstances such that the best interests of the child would be served by placement with or adoption by nonresidents of this State.
Before a child is placed within or outside the boundaries of this State for adoption with nonresidents of this State, compliance with Subarticle 11, Article 11, Chapter 7 of Title 20 (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) is required, and a judicial determination must be made in this State that one of the circumstances in items (a) through (e) of this section applies, whether or not the adoption proceedings are instituted in South Carolina. Additionally, in order to determine if any of the circumstances in items (a) through (e) of this section apply so as to permit placement with a nonresident for the purpose of adoption or adoption by a nonresident, a petition may be brought for the determination before the birth of the child or before placement of the child with the prospective adoptive parents. In ruling on this question the court must include in its order specific findings of fact as to the circumstances allowing the placement of a child with a nonresident or the adoption of a child by a nonresident. The order resulting from this action does not prohibit or waive the right to refuse to consent to a release of rights or relinquish rights at a later time nor to withdraw a consent or relinquish at a later time as provided in this chapter. The order must be merged with and made a part of any subsequent adoption proceeding initiated in South Carolina."
Proceedings in county of child's birth
SECTION 5. Section 20-7-1680 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1680. The family court has exclusive jurisdiction over all proceedings held pursuant to this Subarticle 7, Article 11, Chapter 7 of Title 20. Proceedings for adoption by residents of this State may be brought in the family court of the county in which the petitioner resides or is in military service, or in the county in which the child resides or is born. For nonresidents of this State proceedings for adoption must be brought in the county in which the child resides, in which the child is born, or in which the agency having custody of the child is located.
The family court may order a change of venue as in civil proceedings in this State."
Consents and relinquishments; costs and payments
SECTION 6. Section 20-7-1690 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1690. (A) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is required of the following persons:
(1) the adoptee, if over fourteen years of age, except where the court finds that the adoptee does not have the mental capacity to give consent, or that the best interests of the adoptee are served by not requiring consent; and either
(2) the parents or surviving parent of a child conceived or born during the marriage of the parents; or
(3) the mother of a child born when the mother was not married; and either
(4) the father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents more than six months after the child's birth, but only if the father has
maintained substantial and continuous or repeated
contact with the child as demonstrated by:
(a) payment by the father toward the support of the child of a fair and reasonable sum, based on the father's financial ability; and either
(b) visits by the father to the child at least monthly when the father is physically and financially able to do so, and when the father is not prevented from doing so by the person or agency having lawful custody of the child; or
(c) regular communication by the father with the child or with the person or agency having lawful custody of the child, when the father is physically and financially unable to visit the child, or when the father is prevented from visiting the child by the person or agency having lawful custody of the child.
The subjective intent of the father, if unsupported by evidence of the acts specified in subitems (a), (b), and (c) of this item (4) of subsection (A) of this section, does not preclude a determination that the father failed to maintain substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child. In making this determination, the court may not require a showing of diligent efforts by any person or agency having lawful custody of the child to encourage the father to perform the acts. A father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, who openly lived with the child for a period of six months within the one-year period immediately preceding the placement of the child for adoption, and who during the six-months period openly held himself out to be the father of the child is considered to have maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child for the purpose of this item (4) of subsection (A) of this section; or
(5) the father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents six months or less after the child's birth, but only if:
(a) the father openly lived with the child or the child's mother for a continuous period of six months immediately preceding the placement of the child for adoption, and the father openly held himself out to be the father of the child during the six months period; or
(b) the father paid a fair and reasonable sum, based on the father's financial ability, for the support of the child or for expenses incurred in connection with the mother's pregnancy or with the birth of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, hospital, and nursing expenses.
(B) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is required of the legal guardian, child placing agency, or legal custodian of the child if authority to execute a consent or relinquishment has been vested legally in the agency or person and:
(1) both the parents of the child are deceased; or
(2) the parental rights of both the parents have been judicially terminated.
(C) Consent is required of the child placing agency or person facilitating the placement of the child for adoption if the child has been relinquished for adoption to the agency or person.
(D) If the consent of a child placing agency required by this subsection is not provided to any person eligible under Section 20-7-1670, the agency has an affirmative duty to inform the person who is denied consent of all of his rights for judicial review of the denial.
(E) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption given by a parent who is a child is not subject to revocation by reason of the parent's minority.
(F) Under no circumstances may a child placing agency or any person receive a fee, compensation, or any other thing of value as consideration for giving a consent or relinquishment of a child for the purpose of adoption and no child placing agency or person may receive a child for payment of such fee, compensation, or any other thing of value.
However, costs may be assessed and payment made for the following:
(1) reimbursements for necessary, actual medical, and reasonable living expenses incurred by the mother and child for a reasonable period of time;
(2) the fee for obtaining investigations and reports as required by Section 20-7-1740;
(3) the fee of the individuals required to take the consent or relinquishment, as required by Section 20-7-1705(A);
(4) the fee of a guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to Section 20-7-1732;
(5) reasonable attorney's fees and costs for actual services rendered;
(6) reasonable fees to child placing agencies; and
(7) reasonable fees to sending agencies as defined in Section 20-7-1980(2)(b), the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children."
Minimally acceptable care; indigent and incompetent parents
SECTION 7. Section 20-7-1695 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1695. (A) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20-7-1690, consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is not required of the following persons:
(1) a parent whose rights with reference to the adoptee have been terminated pursuant to Subarticle 3, Article 11, Chapter 7 of Title 20; or
(2) a parent whom the family court finds to be mentally incapable of giving consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption and whom the court finds to be unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care of the adoptee and whose capacity is unlikely to be restored for a reasonable period of time, and, in the court's judgment, it would be detrimental to the adoptee to delay adoption. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for an incompetent parent for whom there has been no prior appointment and shall appoint independent counsel for an incompetent parent who is indigent. However, upon good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement for the appointment of independent counsel for an incompetent and indigent parent.
(B) A parent who has executed a relinquishment pursuant to Section 20-7-1700 to a person facilitating the adoption or to a child placing agency for the purpose of adoption of his child is not required to execute a separate consent document also."
Counseling, duress, and coercion
SECTION 8. Section 20-7-1700(A)(8) and (10) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(8) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment understands that consent or relinquishment must not be given if psychological or legal advice, guidance, or counseling is needed or desired and that none is needed or desired;
(10) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment is doing so voluntarily, and the consent or relinquishment is not being obtained under duress or through coercion; and".
Reference changed; consents or relinquishments obtained outside of this State; signing; duress and coercion
SECTION 9. Section 20-7-1705 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1705. (A) The sworn document provided for in Section 20-7-1700, which gives consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption, must be signed in the presence of two witnesses one of whom must be one of the following:
(1) a judge of any family court in this State;
(2) an attorney licensed to practice law in South Carolina who does not represent the prospective adoption petitioners;
(3) a person certified by the State Department of Social Services, pursuant to Section 20-7-1750, to obtain consents or relinquishments;
(4) when the consent or relinquishment is obtained outside of this State, by an attorney licensed to practice law in that state, by a person designated by an agency of that state, by a person or agency authorized by that state's law to obtain consents or relinquishments or to conduct investigations for adoptions, or by a qualified resident of that state authorized by a South Carolina family court. When a consent or relinquishment is obtained outside of this State, it may be accepted as valid in this State, provided the court determines:
(a) the consent or relinquishment complies with the laws of the state where it is obtained; and
(b) the relinquishing party or agency is domiciled in that state at the time of the signing of the consent or relinquishment; or
(c) the content of the consent or relinquishment is in substantial compliance with the intent of Section 20-7-1700(A).
(B) The persons who witness the signing of the sworn document, as provided for in subsection (A) of this section shall attach to the document written certification signed by each witness that before the signing of the document, the provisions of the document were discussed with the person giving consent or relinquishment, and that based on this discussion, it is each witness' opinion that consent or relinquishment is being given voluntarily and that it is not being obtained under duress or through coercion.
(C) A copy of the document must be delivered to the person giving the consent or relinquishment at the time of the signing of the document."
SECTION 10. Section 20-7-1730(B), (C), (D), and (E) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(B) The petition must be filed within sixty days of the date the adoptee is placed for the purpose of adoption in the home of the petitioner.
(C) All of the following must be filed at the time the adoption petition is filed or, after the filing, upon good cause shown:
(1) any consent or relinquishment required by Section 20-7-1690;
(2) the preplacement investigation report;
(3) the background investigation report;
(4) a statement of all payments of money or anything of value made within the past five years or agreed to be made in the future by or on behalf of the petitioner to any person, agency, or organization connected with the adoption that is not a disbursement made and reported pursuant to Section 20-7-1775."
Guardians ad litem
SECTION 11. Section 20-7-1732 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1732. Before any hearing is held on the adoption or any matter related to the adoption, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the adoptee as in other family court actions, and the adoptee must be served with a copy of the pleadings. However, if the adoptee is fourteen years of age or younger, the child may be served by service upon his guardian ad litem or other person with whom he resides."
Responding to an adoption
SECTION 12. Section 20-7-1734(E) and the last two paragraphs of that section are amended to read:
"(E) Notice given pursuant to this section must include notice of the following:
(1) within thirty days of receiving notice the person or agency shall respond in writing by filing with the court in which the adoption is pending notice and reasons to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond;
(2) the court must be informed of the person's or agency's current address and of any changes in address during the adoption proceedings; and
(3) failure to file a response within thirty days of receiving notice constitutes consent to adoption of the child and forfeiture of all rights and obligations of the person or agency with respect to the child.
When notice of intent to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond is filed with the court within the required time period, the person or agency must be given an opportunity to appear and to be heard before the final hearing on the merits of the adoption.
Petitioners must be notified by the court of notice and reasons to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond, and petitioners also must be given the opportunity to be represented or to appear and to be heard at any hearing held relating to the adoption."
Investigations and reports
SECTION 13. Section 20-7-1740 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 144 of 1987, is further amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1740. Before the final hearing for adoption of a child, investigations and reports must be completed in accordance with the following:
(A) Before the placement of any child by any agency or by any person with a prospective adoptive parent, a preplacement investigation, a background investigation, and reports of these investigations must be completed.
(1) Preplacement investigations must answer all of the following:
(a) whether the home of the prospective adoptive parent is a suitable one for the placement of a child;
(b) how the emotional maturity, finances, health, relationships, and any other relevant characteristics of the prospective adoptive parent affect the parent's ability to accept, care, and provide a child with an adequate environment as the child matures;
(c) whether the prospective adoptive parent has ever been involved in any proceeding concerning allegedly neglected, abandoned, abused, or delinquent children;
(d) whether the prospective adoptive parent has completed a course or counseling in preparation for adoption;
(e) whether the prospective adoptive parent is approved for placement of a child for
purposes of adoption, and if not approved, a statement of the reasons for not approving the prospective adoptive parent; and
(f) any other information that is disclosed by the investigation that would be of value to or would assist the court in deciding the case.
(2) If the waiting period for an adoptive placement exceeds one year from the date the preplacement investigation report is completed, the report must be updated before the placement of a child for the purpose of adoption to determine any change in circumstances.
(3) A background information investigation and a report of this investigation may not disclose the identity of the biological parents of the adoptee and shall provide the following:
(a) a medical history of the biological family of the adoptee, including parents, siblings, and other family members related to the adoptee including ages, sex, race, and any known genetic, psychological, metabolic, or familial disorders; and
(b) a medical and developmental history of the adoptee.
(4) Notwithstanding any provision of this section, upon good cause shown, the court in its discretion may permit the temporary custody and placement of a child with a prospective adoptive parent before the completion of the preplacement or background investigation and reports required pursuant to this subarticle.
(B) A postplacement investigation and report of this investigation must be completed after the filing of the adoption petition. Copies of this report must be provided to the adoption petitioner and must be filed with the court at the final hearing on the adoption provided for in Section 20-7-1760. A postplacement investigation and report of this investigation must:
(1) answer all of the following:
(a) the race, sex, and age of the adoptee and whether the child is a suitable child for adoption by the prospective adoptive parent;
(b) the reason for the adoptee's placement away from the biological parents;
(c) whether the adoptee, if of appropriate age and mental capacity, desires to be adopted;
(2) review and where indicated, investigate the allegations of the adoption petition and its attachments and of the accounting of disbursements required under Section 20-7-1775;
(3) evaluate the progress of the placement of the adoptee; and
(4) determine whether adoption by the petitioner is in the best interests of the adoptee.
(C) The investigators and all persons participating in, conducting, or associated with the preparation of reports required under this section must be available for examination and cross-examination by any party to an adoption proceeding concerning the contents of and recommendations contained in the reports."
SECTION 14. Section 20-7-1750 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1750. With the exception of the persons provided for in Section 20-7-1705(A)(1), (2), and (4), any person obtaining a consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption must be certified by the State Department of Social Services. Any person conducting an investigation for the adoption of a child pursuant to Section 20-7-1740 also must be certified by the department. However, where the adoption petitioner or prospective adoption petitioner is a nonresident of this State, a South Carolina family court may authorize a qualified nonresident to conduct any investigations required under Section 20-7-1740.
The department shall promulgate regulations to provide for the following: certification of investigators; issuance, monitoring, and revocation of certificates; and sanctioning of noncompliance with regulations. Any person certified by the department may charge a fee which may not exceed the reasonable costs of the services rendered. The fee must be approved by the department during the certification process.
The department shall develop, revise, and publish quarterly a directory of persons certified pursuant to this section. A reasonable fee may be charged by the department for copies of this directory."
Adoption hearings; special needs child
SECTION 15. Section 20-7-1760(A) and (B) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(A) The final hearing on the adoption petition must not be held before ninety days and no later than six months after the filing of the adoption petition. In the case of a special needs child, the hearing must not be held before ninety days and no later than twelve months after the filing of the adoption petition. In its discretion, upon good cause shown, the court may extend, or in the case of a special needs child extend or shorten the time within which the final hearing on the adoption petition may be held.
(B) Upon satisfactory examination by the court of the record, including the reports required in Section 20-7-1740, and following the final hearing on the adoption petition the court shall issue an order granting the adoption if it finds that:
(1) the adoptee has been in the actual custody of the petitioner for a period of ninety
days unless the court finds as provided in subsection (A) that there is good cause for modifying the time within which the final hearing may be held;
(2) all necessary consents or relinquishments for the purpose of adoption have been obtained;
(3) notice of the adoption proceeding has been given to all persons entitled to receive notice under Sections 20-7-1690 and 20-7-1734, and any hearing resulting from the notice has been held and handled according to the satisfaction of the court;
(4) the disbursements made and accounted for pursuant to Section 20-7-1775 are reasonable costs for expenses incurred or for fees for services rendered;
(5) the petitioner is a fit and proper person and able to care for the child and to provide for the child's welfare, and the petitioner desires to establish the relationship of parent and child with the adoptee;
(6) the best interests of the adoptee are served by the adoption; and
(7) if the petitioner is a nonresident of this State, the findings pursuant to Section 20-7-1660 are included in the order, and there has been compliance with Subarticle 11, Article 11, Chapter 7 of Title 20 (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)."
Accounting of expenses and fees
SECTION 16. Section 20-7-1775(A) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(A) At the final hearing on the adoption, the petitioner shall file a full, itemized accounting of all disbursements of anything of value made, agreed to be made, or anticipated being made by or on behalf of the petitioner for expenses incurred or fees for services rendered
in connection with the adoption. The accounting must be verified by the petitioner under penalty of perjury."
Confidential files and records
SECTION 17. Section 20-7-1780(C) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 144 of 1987, is further amended to read:
"(C) All files and records pertaining to the adoption proceedings in the State Department of Social Services, or in any authorized agency, or maintained by any person certified by the department under the provisions of Section 20-7-1750, are confidential and must be withheld from inspection except upon court order for good cause shown."
SECTION 18. Section 20-7-1820 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Section 82, Act 171 of 1987, is further amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1820. Any person may adopt his spouse's child, and any person may adopt a child to whom he is related by blood or marriage. In the adoption of these children:
(a) no investigation or report required under the provisions of Section 20-7-1740 is required unless otherwise directed by the court;
(b) no accounting by the petitioner of all disbursements required under the provisions of Section 20-7-1775 is required unless the accounting is ordered by the court;
(c) upon good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement, pursuant to Section 20-7-1760, that the final hearing must not be held before ninety days after the filing of the adoption petition; and
(d) upon good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement, pursuant to Section 20-7-1695(A)(2), of the appointment of independent counsel for an indigent parent."
Prohibitions; assessment of costs
SECTION 18A. Section 16-3-1060 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 16-3-1060. No person may sell or buy a minor child, or request, or accept, receive, or pay any fee, compensation, or any other thing of value as consideration for relinquishing the custody of a child for adoption. Provided, however, release or termination of prior support obligations shall not be construed as compensation or any other thing of value within the meaning of this section. However, reasonable costs may be assessed if they are reimbursements for expenses incurred or fees for services rendered, as provided for in Section 20-7-1690(F). This section does not prohibit the assumption by a prospective adoptive parent of child support obligations previously established by the order of any court.
Any person violating the provisions of this section or the provisions of Section 20-7-1690(F) is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction or plea of guilty, must be fined not more than ten thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both, in the discretion of the court."
SECTION 19. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor, except adoption proceedings in progress and not completed before the effective date of this act must be carried to conclusion pursuant to the provisions of the sections amended by this act as they existed before amendment, unless the proceedings are otherwise revised by the family court to conform to the provisions of this act. 'Proceedings in progress' include proceedings in which consent or relinquishment has been given for the purpose of adoption before the effective date of this act whether or not a petition has been filed before that date.