587A-33 Termination of parental rights hearing. (a) At a termination of parental rights hearing, the court shall determine whether there exists clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) A child's parent whose rights are subject to termination is not presently willing and able to provide the parent's child with a safe family home, even with the assistance of a service plan;

(2) It is not reasonably foreseeable that the child's parent whose rights are subject to termination will become willing and able to provide the child with a safe family home, even with the assistance of a service plan, within a reasonable period of time, which shall not exceed two years from the child's date of entry into foster care;

(3) The proposed permanent plan is in the best interests of the child. In reaching this determination, the court shall:

(A) Presume that it is in the best interests of the child to be promptly and permanently placed with responsible and competent substitute parents and family in a safe and secure home; and

(B) Give greater weight to the presumption that the permanent plan is in the child's best interest, the younger the child is upon the child's date of entry into foster care; and

(4) The child consents to the permanent plan if the child is at least fourteen years old, unless the court consults with the child in camera and finds that it is in the best interest of the child to proceed without the child's consent.

(b) If the court determines that the criteria set forth in subsection (a) are established by clear and convincing evidence and the goal of the permanent plan is for the child to be adopted or remain in permanent custody, the court shall order:

(1) That the child's parent's parental rights be terminated;

(2) Termination of the existing service plan and revocation of the prior award of foster custody;

(3) That permanent custody of the child be awarded to an appropriate authorized agency;

(4) An appropriate permanent plan; and

(5) The entry of any other orders the court deems to be in the best interests of the child, including restricting or excluding unnecessary parties from participating in adoption or other subsequent proceedings.

(c) Unless otherwise ordered by the court or until the child is adopted, the child's family member shall retain, to the extent that the family member possessed the responsibility prior to the termination of parental rights, the continuing responsibility to support the child, including repaying the cost of any and all care, treatment, or any other service provided by the permanent custodian, any subsequent permanent custodian, other authorized agency, or the court for the child's benefit.

(d) A family member may be permitted visitation with the child at the discretion of the permanent custodian. The court may review the exercise of such discretion and may order that a family member be permitted such visitation as is in the best interests of the child.

(e) An order for the termination of parental rights entered under this chapter shall not operate to terminate the mutual rights of inheritance of the child and the child's family members or any other benefit to which the child may be entitled, until the child has been adopted.

(f) The court, in its discretion, may vest permanent custody of a child in an authorized agency or in subsequently authorized agencies, as the court deems to be in the best interests of the child.

(g) If the department receives a report that the child has been harmed or is subject to threatened harm by the acts or omissions of the permanent custodians of the child, the department may automatically assume either family supervision over the child and the child's permanent custodian or foster custody of the child. The department shall immediately notify the court, and the court shall set the case for a permanency hearing within ten days after the department receives such a report, unless the court deems a later date to be in the best interests of the child.

(h) If the court determines that the criteria set forth in subsection (a) are not established by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall order:

(1) The preparation of a plan to achieve permanency for the child;

(2) The entry of any orders that the court deems to be in the best interests of the child;

(3) A periodic review hearing to be held within six months after the date of the last permanency hearing; and

(4) A permanency hearing to be held within twelve months of the date of the last permanency hearing.

(i) Absent compelling reasons, if the child has been in foster care under the department's responsibility for an aggregate of fifteen out of the most recent twenty-two months from the date of entry into foster care, the department shall file a motion to terminate parental rights. [L 2010, c 135, pt of 1; am L 2011, c 51, 7]

 

 

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