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NO. 53. AN ACT RELATING TO ADOPTIONS.

(H.334)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 15A V.S.A. 1-113 is added to read:

1-113. CRIMINAL RECORD CHECKS

(a) Criminal record checks required under this title shall be obtained as provided in this section.

(b) The commissioner of the department of social and rehabilitation services or any judge of the probate court shall obtain from the Vermont criminal information center the record of Vermont convictions and pending criminal charges for any person being evaluated to be an adoptive parent.

(c) The commissioner or probate judge, through the Vermont criminal information center shall request the record of convictions and pending criminal charges of the appropriate criminal repositories in all states in which there is reason to believe the applicant has resided or been employed.

(d) If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the commissioner or probate judge through the Vermont criminal information center shall request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a national criminal history record check of the applicant’s convictions and pending criminal charges. The request to the FBI shall be accompanied by a set of the applicant’s fingerprints and a fee established by the Vermont criminal information center which shall be paid by the applicant and shall reflect the cost of obtaining the record from the FBI.

(e) The Vermont criminal information center shall send to the requester any record received pursuant to this section or inform the requester that no record exists.

(f) The requester shall promptly provide a copy of any record of convictions and pending criminal charges to the applicant and shall inform the applicant of the right to appeal the accuracy and completeness of the record pursuant to rules adopted by the Vermont criminal information center.

(g) Upon completion of the applicant process under this section, the applicant’s fingerprint card and any copies thereof shall be destroyed.

(h) For good cause shown the probate court may waive the fingerprint requirements in this section.

Sec. 2. 15A V.S.A. 2-203(b) is amended to read:

(b) A preplacement evaluation shall be completed within *[60]* 90 days after it is requested unless extended by the court. An evaluator shall give priority to a request from a person who has located a prospective adoptee.

Sec. 3. 15A V.S.A. 3-101(a) is amended to read:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, the probate courts of this state have jurisdiction over a proceeding for the adoption of a minor commenced under this title if:

(1) immediately before commencement of the proceeding, the minor lived in this state with a parent, a guardian, a prospective adoptive parent, or another person acting as parent, for at least six consecutive months, including periods of temporary absence, or, in the case of a minor under six months of age, lived in this state from soon after birth with any of those persons;

(2) immediately before commencement of the proceeding, the prospective adoptive parent lived in this state for at least six consecutive months, including periods of temporary absence;

(3) *[the]* an agency *[that]* placed the minor for adoption *[is licensed in this state]* and it is in the best interest of the minor that a court of this state assume jurisdiction because:

(A) the minor and the minor's parents, or the minor and the prospective adoptive parent, have a significant connection with this state; and

(B) there is available in this state substantial evidence concerning the minor's present or future care;

(4) the minor and the prospective adoptive parent are physically present in this state and the minor has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the minor because the minor has been subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse or is otherwise neglected; or

(5) it appears that no other state would have jurisdiction under prerequisites substantially in accordance with subdivisions (1) through (4) of this subsection, or another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum to hear a petition for adoption of the minor, and it is in the best interest of the minor that a court of this state assume jurisdiction.

Sec. 4. 15A V.S.A. 3-304(a) is amended to read:

(a) A petition for adoption of a minor shall be signed and verified by the petitioner*[, filed in duplicate, and]*. It shall be filed and shall contain the following information or state why any of the information omitted is not contained in the petition:

* * * [Remaining Text Omitted] * * *

Sec. 5. 15A V.S.A. 4-102 is amended to read:

4-102. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF ADOPTION OF STEPCHILD

(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, the legal consequences of an adoption of a stepchild by a stepparent are the same as under sections 1-103 through 1-106 of this title.

(b) An adoption by a stepparent does not affect:

(1) the legal relationship between the adoptee and the adoptee's parent who is the adoptive stepparent's spouse or deceased spouse;

(2) the right of the adoptee or a descendant of the adoptee to inheritance or intestate succession through or from the adoptee’s former parent; or

*[(2)]*(3) an existing court order for visitation or communication with a minor adoptee by a person related to the adoptee through the parent who is the adoptive stepparent's spouse or deceased spouse; or

*[(3)]*(4) a court order or agreement for visitation or communication with a minor adoptee approved by the court pursuant to section 4-112 of this title.

(c) Failure to comply with an agreement or order for visitation or communication is not a ground for challenging the validity of an adoption by a stepparent.

Sec. 6. 4 V.S.A. 358 is amended to read:

358. REGISTER TO BE SWORN; DUTIES

(a) A register shall be sworn and perform the duties of clerk of the probate court, make docket entries of and file each order, sentence and decree of the court and of other things proper to be docketed and, on the fees being paid, give certified copies of the files, records and proceedings of the court. A register shall make out and sign letters of administration, guardianship, warrants or other processes or any other written instruments issuing from the probate court if so provided by law or the rules of probate procedure.

*[(b) The register shall also file, in the place and in the manner as the supreme court shall by rule prescribe, a separate duplicate copy of each will, inventory, license to sell real property, report of sale of real property and decree of distribution which is filed in the probate court. Any method of reproduction may be employed for purposes of this subsection which is approved by the supreme court by rule.]*

*[(c)]*(b) The register shall safeguard from disclosure those records of the probate court made confidential or to which public access is limited by law or the rules of probate procedure.

Sec. 6a. Rule 79 of the Vermont Rules of Probate Procedure is amended to read:

RULE 79. BOOKS AND RECORDS KEPT BY

THE REGISTER AND ENTRIES THEREIN

(a) Docket. The register shall keep the docket and shall enter therein each proceeding to which these rules are applicable. Actions may be grouped upon the docket by the type of proceeding involved. Actions shall be assigned consecutive file numbers. The file number of each proceeding shall be noted on the folio of the docket whereon the first entry of the action is made. All papers filed with the register, all process issued and returns made thereon, all appearances, orders and judgments shall be entered chronologically in the docket on the folio assigned to the proceeding and shall be marked with its file number. These entries shall be brief but shall show the nature and subject matter of each paper filed, writ issued or order or judgment of the court and of returns showing execution of process. The entry of an order or judgment shall show the date theentry is made.

*[(b) Duplicates. The register shall prepare and record in a recording volume a separate copy of each will, inventory, license to sell real property, report of sale of real property and decree of distribution which is filed for probate in the court. The copy shall be prepared on a copying machine which is approved by the director of the division of public records for permanent record keeping.]*

*[(c)]*(b) Indices. The court shall keep a general card index of all cases in the court as provided by law.

*[(d)]*(c) Custody of Records and Papers. The register shall have custody of the records and papers of the court and shall maintain them as provided by law.

*[(e)]*(d) Other books, dockets and records. The register shall keep such other books, dockets and records as may be required by law or by order of the Supreme Court.

Sec. 7. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage.

Sec. 8. REPORT

The director of the Vermont criminal information center shall investigate federal compliance with 15A V.S.A. 1-113(g) and shall determine whether the records that are ordered destroyed pursuant to that subsection are in fact being destroyed. On January 15, 1998 the director shall report the result of the investigation to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate.

Approved: June 26, 1997