Posted on February 25th, 2010 1 comment
I just received word that Senate Bills 1118-1120 have moved from Senate Committee to the full Senate for a vote. These bills would amend the Safe Delivery of Newborns Act to modify the provisions under which the family court may terminate parental rights to a surrendered newborn. Specifically, they would eliminate the court’s ability to terminate parental rights when a parent petitions for custody within 28 days after surrendering the newborn. Instead, the court could order the child placing agency to petition for jurisdiction under the juvenile code.
I have been unable to find much on the internet regarding these bills and I was not able to find any case law that might serve as a call to action to modify the Act. The legislation does have bipartisan support. The policy behind the legislation may be to create a bigger incentive parents to safely bring newborn infants to an emergency service provider by eliminating the risk of a termination of parental rights if they have a change of heart and seek custody. The bill does not preclude the filing of a supplemental petition to terminate parental rights if services are not effective.
Under the current law, a parent may surrender a newborn infant to an emergency service provider, which must take temporary protective custody of the child. If the surrendering parent wants custody of the newborn, he or she must file a petition with the family court within 28 days. If the parent does not do so, he or she is presumed to have knowingly released his or her parental rights to the newborn, and a child placing agency immediately must file a petition with the court to determine whether the court will enter an order terminating the rights of the surrendering parent.
If the court finds that the surrendering parent has knowingly released his or her parental rights and that reasonable efforts were made to locate the nonsurrendering parent, the court must enter an order terminating the parental rights of the surrendering parent and the nonsurrendering parent.
If a custody action is filed, the court must determine custody of the newborn based on his or her best interest, considering the factors set forth in MCL 712.14. Based on these findings, under MCL 712.15 the court may issue an order that does one of the following:
- Grants legal and/or physical custody of the newborn to the parent, and retains or relinquishes jurisdiction.
- Determines that the best interests of the newborn are not served by granting custody to the petitioner parent, and terminates his or her parental rights and gives a child placing agency custody and care of the newborn.
- Dismisses the petition.
Finally, under MCL 712.19b(3)(a)(iii), the Court may terminate parental rights if the parent voluntarily surrendered the child to an emergency service provider under the Safe Delivery of Newborns Law and did not petition the court to regain custody within 28 days.
Under Senate Bill 1118, a court would not be required to terminate parental rights of the surrendering and nonsurrendering parent if a custody action has been filed within 28 days pursuant to MCL 712.10.
Under Senate Bill 1119, following a custody hearing, instead of terminating the petitioner’s parental rights and giving a child placing agency care and custody, bill would allow the court to order a child placing agency to petition the court for jurisdiction under the juvenile code, if the court found that granting custody to the parent would not serve the newborn’s best interests.
Senate Bill 1120 would eliminate surrender of a child under the Safe Delivery of Newborns Act as a ground for termination under 712.19b. However, .