Circuit Court Probate Division Rules Table of Contents
A. Purpose. The purpose of this rule is to assure the speedy processing of Petitions for the termination of parental rights and to achieve permanent family plans for the children within the scope of RSA Chapter 170-C. This rule should in no way be considered as superseding constitutional or statutory rights of Parties to these proceedings.
B. Contents of Petition. A Petition for termination of parental rights shall include the following:
1. The name and place of residence of the Petitioner.
2. The name, sex, date and place of birth, and residence of the child.
3. The basis for the Court's jurisdiction.
4. The relationship of the Petitioner to the child, or the fact that no relationship exists.
5. The names, addresses, and dates of birth of the parents.
6. When the child's parent is a minor, the names and addresses of said minor's parents or guardian of the person.
7. The names and addresses of the following Persons:
(a) the Person having legal custody;
(b) the guardian of the person:
(i) of the parent, or
(ii) of the child;
(c) any individual acting in loco parentis to the child; or
(d) the organization or authorized agency having legal custody or providing care for the child.
8. The grounds on which termination of the parent-child relationship is sought.
9. The names of the authorized agency to whom or to which legal custody or guardianship of the person of the child may be transferred.
10. If the Petition for termination is filed subsequent to an abuse/ neglect proceeding, the names and addresses of the attorneys representing the parents and the names and addresses of any guardian ad litems appointed in the underlying abuse/ neglect case.
11. If the Petition is filed by an authorized agency, the name and address of the Attorney representing the agency and the name and address of the social worker assigned to the case.
C. Contents of Notice. The order of notice provided for in RSA 170-C:7 shall be attached to a copy of the Petition and shall include the following:
1. The statement that termination of parental rights means the loss of all rights to custody, visitation, and communication with the child and that if termination is granted, the parent will receive no notice of future legal proceedings concerning the child.
2. An explanation of the need to respond immediately to the notice, both to prepare for trial and because important hearings will take place prior to trial.
3. An explanation of how to find out the time and place of future hearings in the case.
4. Notice of right to counsel, of the procedure to follow to obtain appointed counsel, and of the role that counsel can play in Court proceedings.
5. The date, time, and place of the hearing on the Petition for termination of parental rights. The statement that a written Appearance must be filed with the Court on or before the date of the hearing, or the Respondent/parent may personally appear on the date of the hearing, or be defaulted.
6. The statement that the failure to appear personally or in writing will waive all rights to a hearing and that the Person's parental rights may be terminated at the hearing.
D. Notice. After a Petition has been filed, the Court shall set the time and place for hearing and shall give notice thereof to the Petitioner.
1. The Petitioner shall cause notice to be given to:
(a) the Respondent/parent;
(b) the guardian ad litem and/or guardian of the person of the child;
(c) the guardian ad litem and/or guardian of the person of any other Party;
(d) the Person having legal custody of the child; and
(e) any individual standing in loco parentis to the child.
2. Where the child's parent is a minor, notice shall also be given to the minor's parents or guardian of the person unless the Court is satisfied, in its discretion, that such notice is not in the best interest of the minor and that it would serve no useful purpose.
3. The Petitioner shall provide notice to the Respondent(s)/parent(s) by personal service. Where it shall appear impractical to personally serve the Respondent/parent, however, the Court shall, upon Motion of the Petitioner, order service, either by certified mail, return receipt requested (restricted delivery to addressee only), to the Respondent's/parent's last known address, or by publication once a week for two (2) successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where that Person was last domiciled, or both.
4. The Petitioner shall include with a Motion for notice by publication an affidavit describing the Petitioner's efforts to locate and serve the absent parent.
5. All other Parties shall be given notice by regular mail at their last known address.
6. Pursuant to RSA 170-C:13, costs of giving notice and advertising shall be paid by the Petitioner.
E. Initial Hearing. Should the Respondent/parent enter an Appearance or appear personally, the hearing described in (C)(5) of this rule shall be considered an initial hearing. At this hearing, the Court shall:
1. Determine that the Court has jurisdiction.
2. Assure that all parents have been identified and located, and if there is a unnamed or absent parent, inquire about what efforts have been made to locate that Person.
3. Appoint counsel for the Respondent(s)/parent(s), if necessary.
4. Address the issue of notice, if necessary.
5. Order evaluations, if appropriate.
6. Establish the time and date for a structuring conference.
7. Address any other matters necessary to expedite the case and to make orders for that purpose.
F. Structuring Conference. When an initial hearing is held as a result of an Appearance by the Respondent/parent, a structuring conference shall be scheduled to be held within thirty (30) days after the initial hearing. At the structuring conference, the Court shall:
1. Resolve any outstanding discovery disputes.
2. Identify issues of law and fact for trial.
3. Assure that all relevant evaluations will be completed prior to the final hearing on the merits.
4. Resolve any other matters which will simplify or aid the conduct of the final hearing on the merits.
5. Determine if a pretrial conference will be necessary and if so, set the time and date.
6. Set the time and date of the final hearing on the merits and estimate its length.
G. Pretrial Conference. A pretrial conference is not mandatory. However, if a pretrial conference is held, it shall be held at a time, within the discretion of the Court, after the structuring conference and before the final hearing on the merits. At the pretrial conference, the Court shall:
1. Resolve any remaining issues which would simplify or aid the conduct of the final hearing on the merits, e.g. memoranda of law, admission of documents, admission of reports, etc.
2. Review the final witness list.
3. Confirm the date, time, and estimated length of the final hearing on the merits.
H. Final Hearing On the Merits. If the Respondent/parent neither enters an Appearance nor appears personally, the final hearing on the merits shall be conducted in place of the scheduled initial hearing. If the Respondent/parent enters an Appearance, the final hearing on the merits shall be commenced within one hundred twenty (120) days after the structuring conference. The Court shall set aside sufficient time to avoid interruptions of the final hearing on the merits. In the event a final hearing on the merits cannot be completed within the allotted time, it may be adjourned. Except for good cause shown, the adjournment shall not exceed fourteen (14) days.
I. Issuance of Court Order. The Court shall issue a decision which shall include a disposition no later than thirty (30) days after the date of the final hearing on the merits, or when applicable, the filing of an Affidavit as to Military Service.
Upon the granting or denial of a Petition for termination of parental rights brought by the Division of Children, Youth and Families subsequent to a district court proceeding, the Court shall send notice of the decision to the district court.
Upon the granting or denial of a Petition for termination of parental rights brought by the Division of Children, Youth and Families, the Court shall send notice of the decision to the adoption unit. If the petition for termination is granted, the Court shall require the Division for Children, Youth and Families social worker to transfer the termination of parental rights case to the adoption unit within ten (10) days of the expiration of the appeal period and send a letter to the Court confirming such transfer. The Adoption Unit Social Worker shall file an Appearance for purposes of receiving notice for subsequent hearings.
If, after the final hearing on the merits, the Court does not order a termination of parental rights but finds that the best interest of the child requires substitution or supplementation of parental care and supervision, and orders a guardianship over the child by the Division for Children, Youth and Families or an authorized agency, a review hearing shall be scheduled to be held within one (1) year after any Court order granting guardianship is issued, and annually thereafter.
J. Post-Termination Case Review Hearings. The guardian ad litem for the child shall continue as such until the child is adopted or the Court discharges the guardian ad litem from further involvement in the case.
If the Court orders termination of parental rights and grants custody of the child to the Division for Children, Youth and Families for the purpose of placing the child for adoption, a post-termination case review hearing shall be scheduled to be held within ninety (90) days of the Court's order, and every six (6) months thereafter, unless excused by the Court for good cause shown. If an adoption petition is filed prior to any scheduled post-termination case review hearing, the hearing may be cancelled.
Within five (5) days prior to the post-termination case review hearing, the Division for Children, Youth and Families shall submit a written status report to the Court. The Division for Children, Youth and Families shall forward a copy of the status report to the child's guardian ad litem and/or attorney. The report shall be dated and signed and shall be written by the Division for Children, Youth and Families to include four (4) separate categories, as outlined below:
1. A description of the agency's progress toward arranging an adoptive placement for the child.
2. If adopted parents have not already been selected, a schedule and description of the steps taken to place the child for adoption.
3. A discussion of any special barriers preventing placement of the child for adoption and how they should be overcome.
4. The projected date for filing a Petition for adoption.
The Court shall make any orders which may be appropriate to achieve permanency.
K. Change of Venue. When the Division for Children, Youth and Families wishes to proceed with adoption proceedings in a county or state other than where the termination occurred, the division may seek a change of venue pursuant to Rule 115.
Circuit Court Probate Division Rules Table of Contents