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Child Adoption Laws
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Child Adoption Laws
New Hampshire


We hope to help you learn more about the child adoption laws in the State of New Hampshire.  Please note that while we have tried to be as current as possible, laws are occasionally rewritten and/or amended; accordingly, the New Hampshire adoption law provided below may have errors, omissions, or may not be the most current version. Please remember that this information should not be used as the basis for making any legal decision. Please use appropriate resources and an attorney's advice when making legal decisions.

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New Hampshire Revised Statutes

New Hampshire Adoption Statute and Law
New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title XII: Public Safety and Welfare
Chapter 170-B: Adoption
Sections 1-31

(This page was last updated on 09/10/13.)


Section 170-B:1 Purpose
Section 170-B:2 Definitions
Section 170-B:3 Who May be Adopted; Requirements
Section 170-B:4 Who may Adopt
Section 170-B:5 Persons Required to Execute a Surrender of Parental Rights
Section 170-B:5-a Notice to Person Claiming Paternity and Hearing to Determine Right to Consent
Section 170-B:6 Notice to Person Claiming Paternity and Hearing to Determine Right to Surrender
Section 170-B:7 Persons Not Required to Surrender
Section 170-B:8 Immediate Surrender Prohibited; Availability of Counseling
Section 170-B:9 Procedure for Execution of Surrender
Section 170-B:10 Content of Surrender
Section 170-B:11 Consequences of Surrender
Section 170-B:12 Withdrawal of Surrender
Section 170-B:13 Payment of Birth Parent Expenses; Penalty
Section 170-B:14 Arrangements Between Adoptive and Birth Parents
Section 170-B:15 Jurisdiction, Venue, and Inconvenient Forum
Section 170-B:16 Petition for Adoption
Section 170-B:17 Notice of Petition
Section 170-B:18 Assessment
Section 170-B:19 Hearing
Section 170-B:20 Dismissal of Adoption Proceedings
Section 170-B:21 Appeals and Validation of Adoption Decrees
Section 170-B:22 Report of Adoption
Section 170-B:23 Confidentiality of Records
Section 170-B:24 Requests for Identifying and Non-Identifying Information
Section 170-B:25 Effect of Petition and Decree of Adoption; Inheritance
Section 170-B:26 Change of Name
Section 170-B:27 Readoption
Section 170-B:28 Placement of a Child from Another State or Country
Section 170-B:29 Recognition of Foreign Decree Affecting Adoption
Section 170-B:30 Fees and Court Costs
Section 170-B:31 Amended Birth Certificate


170-B:1 Purpose. –The general court hereby declares its conviction that the policies and procedures for adoption contained in this chapter are necessary and desirable, having as their purpose the threefold protection of:
    I. The adoptive child, from unnecessary separation from the child's birth parents and from adoption by parents who should not have such responsibility. This protection also includes the protection of the child from a birth parent attempting to surrender his or her parental rights and responsibilities without a pending legitimate adoption of the child first being filed with the court or in the case of an adoption facilitated by the department or an agency, without an adoption first being contemplated.
    II. The birth parent or parents, from hurried and coerced decisions to give up the child.
    III. The adoptive parent or parents and ensuring them an undisturbed relationship with the child from and after the date of adoption.

Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:1, eff. July 30, 2006


170-B:2 Definitions. – As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
I. ""Adult'' means an individual who is not a minor.
II. ""Agency'' means any person licensed by existing law to place minors for adoption.
III. ""Birth father'' means a person or persons other than a legal father who has been named, pursuant to RSA 170-B:6, as the father of the child, or who is the subject of a pending paternity action, or who has filed an unrevoked notice of intent to claim paternity of the child pursuant to RSA 170-B:6.
IV. ""Birth mother'' means a woman who gestates an embryo conceived by natural or artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or preembryo transfer, or becomes a parent pursuant to RSA 168-B:23, IV.
V. ""Child'' means a son or daughter, whether by birth or by adoption.
VI. ""Commissioner'' means the commissioner of the department of health and human services.
VII. ""Court'' means probate court.
VIII. ""Department'' means the department of health and human services.
IX. ""Guardian'' means a person so appointed by the probate court.
X. ""Legal father'' means:
[Paragraph X(a) effective until January 1, 2006; see also paragraph X(a) set out below.]

(a) The person designated as the father pursuant to RSA 5-C:11 on that child's birth certificate;
[Paragraph X(a) effective January 1, 2006; see also paragraph X(a) set out above.]

(a) The person designated as the father pursuant to RSA 5-C:24 on that child's birth certificate; or
(b) The person designated as the father pursuant to court order resulting from a paternity action;
(c) The person designated as the father upon legitimating pursuant to RSA 457:42; or
(d) The person that was determined by the court to be married to the birth mother at the time of either conception or birth or any time between conception and birth.
XI. ""Minor'' or ""minor child'' means any individual under the age of 18.
XII. ""Parent'' means mother, birth father, legal father, or adoptive parent, but such term shall not include a parent as to whom the parent-child relationship has been terminated by judicial decree or voluntarily surrender.
XIII. ""Person'' means an individual, corporation, government or governmental subdivision or agency, business trust, estate, trust, partnership or association, or any other legal entity.
XIV. ""Prospective adoptive parent'' means the petitioner named on an adoption petition filed in the court.
XV. ""Related child'' means a child within the second degree of kinship either by blood or affinity. Relatives within the second degree includes step-parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, or uncles.
XVI. ""Sibling'' means one of 2 or more persons having a common parent.
XVII. ""Surrender'' means the release of all parental rights, including but not limited to care, custody, and control of the child, by a parent, legal guardian, or agency.
[Paragraph XVIII effective January 1, 2006.]
XVIII. ""Voluntarily mediated agreement'' means an agreement made through a court-approved mediation program between the department, birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents in contemplation of post-adoption sharing of information and/or contact regarding the adoption of a child who is either under the legal custody or guardianship of the department.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2005, 246:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2006; 268:5, eff. Jan. 1, 2006.


170-B:3 Who May be Adopted; Requirements. – Any individual may be adopted, provided, however, that:
I. If the adoptee is 14 years of age or older, he or she must assent to the adoption unless the court determines that it is not in the best interests of the adoptee to require assent. Such an assent shall be executed by the adoptee in writing and signed in the presence of the court in which the petition for adoption has been filed.
II. If the adoptee is alleged to be incapacitated, incompetent, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or is in any other way emotionally or mentally deficient, the court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to protect that adoptee's interests.
III. If the adoptee, whether a minor or an adult, is married, the spouse of the adoptee shall also assent to the adoption. The court may waive this requirement for good cause shown.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:4 Who May Adopt. – Any of the following adults may adopt:
I. Husband and wife together.
II. An unmarried adult.
III. The unmarried parent of the adoptee.
IV. A married person without that person's spouse joining as a petitioner, if the adoptee is not the petitioner's spouse; and if any one of the following circumstances apply:
(a) The petitioner's spouse is a parent of the adoptee and assents to the adoption;
(b) The petitioner and his or her spouse are legally separated;
(c) The failure of the petitioner's spouse to join in the petition is excused by the court by reason of prolonged unexplained absence, unavailability, or circumstances constituting an unreasonable withholding of assent; or
(d) The petitioner's spouse assents to the adoption and the adoptee is over the age of 18.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.

170-B:5 Persons Required to Execute a Surrender of Parental Rights. –
I. Unless excused pursuant to RSA 170-B:7, a surrender of parental rights shall be obtained from:
(a) The birth mother, provided that if the birth mother is under 18 years, the court may require the assent of her parents or legal guardian;
(b) The legal father, provided that if the legal father is under 18 years, the court may require the assent of his parents or legal guardian;
(c) The birth father, provided that he was found to be entitled to notice and found to be entitled to the right to surrender his parental rights under RSA 170-B: 6, and provided that if the birth father is under 18 years, the court may require the assent of his parents or legal guardian;
(d) The legal guardian of the adoptee, if both birth parents are deceased, or if parental rights of the birth parent or parents have been surrendered or involuntarily terminated and the court has granted the guardian authority to surrender parental rights for an adoption; or
(e) The department or any licensed child-placing agency which through court action or surrender has been given the care, custody, and control of the adoptee including the right to surrender.
II. If a surrendering parent is alleged to be incapacitated, incompetent, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or in any other way mentally deficient, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the interest of said parent.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.

 

170-B:6 Notice to Person Claiming Paternity and Hearing to Determine Right to Surrender. –
I. In an intrastate or interstate adoption, but not an international adoption, the following persons shall be given notice by the court and shall have the right to request a hearing to prove paternity:
(a) A person named by the birth mother in an affidavit:
          (1) Filed with the court; and
          (2) Given prior to or at the time of the surrender of parental rights pursuant to RSA 170-B:9, or her parental rights being involuntarily terminated.
       (b) The birth or legal father, if his identity is known by the court, the department or licensed child placing agency which is legal guardian of the child, or the proposed adoptive parents or their attorney, prior to the birth mother surrendering her parental rights pursuant to RSA 170-B:9 or her parental rights being involuntarily terminated.
       (c) A person who claims to be the father and who has registered his claim of paternity with the office of child support services in what shall be known as the New Hampshire putative father registry or in the putative father registry of the state where the child was born. The registration form filed with the appropriate putative father registry may be filed prior to the birth of the child but shall be filed prior to the birth mother's parental rights being surrendered pursuant to RSA 170-B:9 or involuntarily terminated. Failure to register with the appropriate putative father registry prior to this time shall bar the alleged father from thereafter bringing an action to establish his paternity of the child, and shall constitute an abandonment of said child and a waiver of any right to a notice of hearing in any adoption proceeding concerning the child.
          (1) In an interstate adoption, the petition shall provide the court with the name, address, and telephone number of the putative father registry in the state where the child was born.
          (2) In New Hampshire, the registration form shall be supplied by the office of child support services. The form shall require the claimant to affirmatively express his intent to support the child to the best of his ability.
       (d) A person who is openly living with the child or the child's birth mother or providing financial support to her or the child at the time any action under this chapter is initiated and who is holding himself out to be the child's father prior to the mother surrendering her parental rights pursuant to RSA 170-B:9 or the mother's parental rights being involuntarily terminated.
    II. Any person entitled to notice from the court under paragraph I shall be provided 30 days from the date of the court's notice to request a hearing at which he shall have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is the legal or birth father of the child. The failure to request such hearing within 30 days from the date of the court's notice shall result in a forfeiture of all parental rights and any right to notice by the court of any adoption proceedings concerning the child.
    III. This section shall be construed broadly in favor of providing an alleged father with notice by the court pursuant to paragraph I.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:2, 3, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:7 Persons Not Required to Surrender. – Surrender of parental rights is not required of:
I. The alleged father who has not met the requirements of RSA 170-B:5, I or RSA 170-B:6;
    II. A parent whose parental rights have been voluntarily or involuntarily terminated by order of a court in another state;
    III. An alleged father who is found not to be the father pursuant to RSA 168-A;
    IV. Any parent of the adoptee, if the adoptee is an adult;
    V. A parent whose parental rights have been terminated pursuant to RSA 170-C;
    V-a. An alleged father who is convicted of an offense under RSA 632-A:2, RSA 632-A:3, RSA 632-A:4, or RSA 639:2 which resulted in conception of the adoptee; or
    VI. Parents whose parental rights have been determined to be voluntarily or involuntarily terminated by the proper authorities in another country, such determination to be evidenced by documentation issued by the United States Department of Justice or the United States Department of State and deemed acceptable by probate court rule.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:13, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:8 Immediate Surrender Prohibited; Availability of Counseling. –
I. No surrender shall be taken until a passage of a minimum of 72 hours after the birth of the child.
II. Any parent wishing to surrender his or her parental rights for the adoption of a child shall be informed by the parent's legal counsel, or if counsel has been waived, by the potential adoptive parents or by their attorney, physician or any intermediary, acting in their behalf or a licensed child-placing agency, that child-placing agencies licensed under RSA 170-E are available to provide counseling about the parent's decision to place the child for adoption.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005


170-B:9 Procedure for Execution of Surrender. –
I. Any parent surrendering parental rights shall be represented by legal counsel who is not representing an intended adoptive parent or the agency, unless such representation is waived with approval of the court for good cause shown. This paragraph is not intended, however, to create a right to counsel to be provided by the state where the surrendering parent is indigent. Instead, this paragraph is intended to make clear that the petitioning party to the adoption shall provide the surrendering parent with legal counsel consistent with RSA 170-B:13, I unless waived by the court for good cause shown.
    II. A surrender of parental rights by a parent or guardian shall be executed by an instrument in writing, signed by the parent, in the presence and with the approval of the court of the county in which the parent resides. The court may designate a person or another court to take the parent's surrender on the court's behalf for good cause shown.
    III. Any parent surrendering parental rights shall file with the court information on the age and medical and personal backgrounds of the birth parents and child. Such personal information may include but not be limited to ethnic and religious background, as is reasonably known. This requirement may be waived by the court for good cause shown.
    IV. If the parent surrendering is under 18 years of age, the court may require the assent of the minor's parents or legal guardian.
    V. If the parent does not reside in this state, such surrender may be taken pursuant to the laws of the state where the parent resides. A surrender executed pursuant to the laws of a state other than New Hampshire shall include an affidavit stating that the surrender was taken in accordance with the laws of that state and, where applicable, that the agency named has the authority to surrender the child for an adoption.
    VI. The identification of the intended adoptive parents need not be known or disclosed to the birth parent or legal guardian in the surrender.
    VII. A surrender executed by the department or by an agency, shall be in writing and signed by the executive head or other authorized representative, in the presence of a person authorized to take acknowledgments.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:4, eff. July 30, 2006.


Section 170-B:10 Content of Surrender.
    I. A surrender shall state that the individual executing the surrender document acknowledges that the individual's parental rights over the child will cease upon the court's approval of the surrender.
    II. A surrender shall further state:
       (a) An acknowledgement that after the surrender is executed in substantial compliance with 170-B:9, it is final and except under a circumstance stated in 170-B:12, may not be revoked or set aside for any reason, including the failure of an adoptive parent to comply with an arrangement or understanding reached with the birth parent with respect to the post-surrender exchange of identifying or non-identifying information, communication, or contact.
       (b) An acknowledgement that the surrender will extinguish all parental obligations, except the obligation to pay any accrued unpaid child support.
       (c) That the person executing the surrender has:
          (1) Been informed of counseling services available through child placing agencies pursuant to RSA 170-E.
          (2) Been provided legal counsel, consistent with RSA 170-B:9, I and RSA 170-B:13, I, unless waived with approval of the court for good cause shown.
       (d) That the person executing the surrender has not received or been promised any money or anything of value for the surrender, except for payments permissible under 170-B:13.
       (e) Whether the person executing the surrender has been informed of the identity of the adoptive parents.
       (f) Whether the child is an Indian child as defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq.
       (g) Whether the person who is surrendering wishes to be notified that a final decree of adoption has been entered.
       (h) That the person who is surrendering has read and understands the content of the document, any questions the person has asked have been answered by the court or its designee, and the person wishes the surrender to take effect.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:5, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:11 Consequences of Surrender. –
I. All parental rights, with the exception of inheritance rights and privileges as provided in RSA 170-B:25, II, shall cease and the right to notice of any future hearings shall be waived by a surrender executed in accordance with RSA 170-B:9 and approved by the court.
    II. Except in the case of stepparent adoptions, upon approval of a surrender of a minor executed by the parent, the court shall issue an order granting temporary care, custody, and control of the child to the prospective adoptive parents or where applicable, to the department or agency. The temporary order shall impose upon the prospective adoptive parents or the department or agency, the responsibility for the support and medical and other care of the minor child. The temporary order shall not be valid for longer than 6 months, unless otherwise ordered by the court, and, with the exception of adoptions in which the department or an agency is involved, shall cease upon the granting of the interlocutory decree of adoption. In adoptions in which the department or an agency is involved, during the interlocutory period, the department or agency shall continue to have a legal relationship giving it responsibility for oversight of the support, medical, and other care of the minor child.
    III. At the time of giving the surrender, the parent may elect to waive notice that a final decree of adoption has been entered.
    IV. A surrender by a parent, executed and acknowledged in accordance with the provisions of RSA 170-B:9, may not be withdrawn except as provided in RSA 170-B:12.
    V. A surrender executed by any individual not a parent waives any objection to the adoption.
    VI. The status of all children for whom care, custody, and control has been transferred through surrender shall be reviewed at least once every 6 months, unless waived by the court, until an adoption decree has been finalized.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:6, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:12 Withdrawal of Surrender. –
I. A parent wishing to withdraw a surrender shall notify the court in writing where the surrender was taken. Notification shall be prior to the entry of the final decree.
II. Upon receiving written notice of a parent's request to withdraw his or her surrender the court shall:
(a) Notify the prospective adoptive parents and the agency, if any, of the parent's request.
(b) Conduct an evidentiary hearing. The rules of evidence are not applicable at this hearing. In addition, the court has the discretion to determine who shall be present at the hearing.
III. A surrender executed and acknowledged in accordance with the provisions of RSA 170-B:9 may not be withdrawn unless the court finds that:
(a) The parent seeking to withdraw his or her surrender has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the surrender was obtained by fraud or duress.
(b) The withdrawal of the surrender is in the best interests of the adoptee. In making this determination, the court may consider every facet of each parent's life.
IV. The court shall notify any other party who has surrendered rights to the child of the issuance of its order granting the withdrawal of such surrender. Notice sent by regular first class mail to the last known address on file with the court shall be sufficient and shall include with it a replication of RSA 170-B:12. The party shall have 30 days from the date of the register's notice of decision to request in writing to the court that his or her surrender be withdrawn as well. The 30-day time period to file such a request shall not be extended by the court absent a showing of good cause.
(a) Upon the court's timely receipt of the request, the court shall, except in the case of a surrender to the department, allow that party's withdrawal as of right and shall enter an order withdrawing such surrender.
(b) In the case of a surrender to the department, upon timely receipt of the request, the provisions of paragraphs II and III shall apply.
V. A surrender may not be withdrawn after the entry of the final decree of adoption for any reason.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:13 Payment of Birth Parent Expenses; Penalty. –
I. In any adoption of an unrelated minor child under this chapter, an intended adoptive parent or anyone acting in concert with, at the direction of, or on behalf of an intended adoptive parent shall pay only the following expenses of the birth parent:
(a) Reasonable counseling, medical, and legal fees, which shall be paid by the party responsible for payment to the provider of the service.
(b) Reasonable expenses for transportation, meals, clothing, and lodging incurred for placement of the minor child.
(c) Reasonable expenses for adoption services provided by an agency at the request of the birth parent, which shall be paid directly to the agency.
(d) Reasonable living expenses of the birth mother which are necessary to maintain an adequate standard of living, which the birth mother is unable to otherwise maintain because of loss of income or other support resulting from the pregnancy and lost wages resulting from the pregnancy or delivery. Payments may cover expenses incurred during the pregnancy-related incapacity, but not for a period longer than 6 weeks following delivery. Reasonable living expenses shall not include gifts in excess of $50, educational expenses, or other payments for the monetary gain of the birth parent.
II. A contract purporting to require a birth parent to reimburse an intended adoptive parent for such payments under any circumstances, including circumstances in which a birth parent refuses to surrender his or her parental rights or withdraws said surrender, is void as against public policy.
III. Violations of this section shall not affect the force or effect of an adoption decree issued pursuant to this chapter; specifically, it shall not be grounds for the finding of fraud or duress affecting the validity of a surrender that an adoptive parent paid or refused to pay expenses or other money or things of value not allowed by this section.
IV. The court may issue appropriate orders to enforce this section, including orders for reimbursement.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.



170-B:14 Arrangements Between Adoptive and Birth Parents.
    I. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as encouraging, discouraging, or prohibiting arrangements or understandings reached between the prospective adoptive parents, the birth parents, or the licensed child-placing agency with respect to the post-surrender exchange of identifying or non-identifying information, communication, or contact. Except in cases involving the department as provided in paragraph II, no such arrangement or understanding shall be binding or enforceable at law or in equity.
    II. In adoptions involving a child who is under either the legal custody or guardianship of the department, a voluntarily mediated agreement shall be enforceable as provided in this paragraph. The purpose of this paragraph is to facilitate the timely achievement of permanency for children who are in the custody or guardianship of the department by providing an option for the parties to enter into a voluntarily mediated agreement for ongoing communication or contact that is in the best interests of the child, that recognizes the parties' interests and desires for ongoing communication or contact, that is appropriate given the role of the parties in the child's life, and that is legally enforceable by the courts.
       (a) Prior to the entry of any adoption decree, the department, prospective adoptive parents, and birth parents may voluntarily participate in a court-approved mediation program in order to reach a voluntarily mediated agreement. If the department is the only party unwilling to participate in mediation, the department shall provide a written explanation of its position to the court, the birth parents, and the prospective adoptive parents. Venue for approval and enforcement of such agreement shall lie in a court of competent jurisdiction that would otherwise issue the termination decree under RSA 170-C. Any breach, modification, or invalidation of the agreement, or any part of it, shall not affect the validity of any surrender of parental rights or the interlocutory or final decree of adoption.
       (b) Other people may be invited to participate in the mediation by mutual consent of the department, birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents. However, these invitees shall not be parties to any agreement reached during that mediation.
       (c) Mediation proceedings and information relating to those proceedings under this paragraph shall be confidential. Information or the statements of any person participating in the mediation shall not be disclosed or used in any subsequent proceeding. Regardless, evidence that would otherwise be admissible at trial shall not be rendered inadmissible as a result of its use in a mediation proceeding. There shall be no record made of any mediation proceedings under this paragraph, and the mediator shall destroy all of his or her notes immediately after the mediation.
       (d) The court shall approve the voluntarily mediated agreement if the court determines that:
          (1) The agreement is in the best interests of the child. In making this determination, factors that the court may consider include:
             (A) The length of time that the child has been under the actual care, custody, and control of any person other than a birth parent and the circumstances relating thereto.
             (B) The desires of the child's birth parents as to custody or residency and the desire of the child as to the child's custody or residency.
             (C) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with birth parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests.
             (D) The adjustment to the child's home, school, and community.
             (E) The willingness and ability of the birth parents to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the prospective adoptive parents.
             (F) The willingness and ability of the prospective adoptive parents to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the birth parents.
             (G) Any evidence of abuse or neglect of the child.
             (H) The recommendations of any guardian ad litem.
          (2) The agreement has been entered into knowingly and voluntarily by all parties. An affidavit made under oath shall accompany the agreement affirmatively stating that the agreement was entered into knowingly and voluntarily and is not the product of coercion, fraud, or duress. The affidavit may be executed jointly or separately.
       (e) To be approved by the court, a voluntarily mediated agreement shall contain the following statements:
          (1) This agreement is entered into pursuant to the provisions of RSA 170-B:14, II.
          (2) Any breach, modification, or invalidation of the agreement, or any part of it, shall not affect the validity of the surrender of parental rights or the interlocutory or final decree of adoption.
          (3) The parties acknowledge that either the birth or prospective adoptive parents who have entered into the agreement have the right to seek enforcement as set forth in RSA 170-B:14, II(i).
          (4) The parties have not relied on any representations other than those contained in the agreement.
       The agreement shall be signed by the parties and acknowledged before a notary public as the free act and deed of the parties. If the child is 14 years of age or older, the agreement also shall contain the written assent of the child.
       (f) To be enforceable, a voluntarily mediated agreement shall be:
          (1) In writing.
          (2) Approved by the court prior to the date for entry of any adoption decree.
          (3) Incorporated but not merged into any adoption decree, and shall survive as an independent agreement.
       (g) A voluntarily mediated agreement under this paragraph need not disclose the identity of the parties to be enforceable; but if an identity is not disclosed, the unidentified person shall designate a resident agent for the purpose of service of process. Failing service on the designated resident agent, the court may order alternative service reasonably calculated to notify the undisclosed party.
       (h) A voluntarily mediated agreement shall cease to be enforceable on the date the child turns 18 years of age. The court issuing final approval of the agreement shall have continuing jurisdiction over enforcement of the agreement until the child reaches his or her 18th birthday.
       (i) A party to a court-approved voluntarily mediated agreement may seek to modify, enforce, or discontinue the agreement by commencing an equity action in the court that approved the underlying agreement. However, before a court may enter an order requiring modification of, compliance with, or discontinuance of the agreement, the moving party shall certify under oath that he or she has participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediating the dispute giving rise to the action prior to filing the equity action. A court order for modification, enforcement, or discontinuance of the terms of the voluntarily mediated agreement shall be the sole remedies for breach of the agreement.
          (1) In a proceeding under this subparagraph, parties shall not be entitled to the appointment of counsel; provided, however, that the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child.
          (2) The court may modify the terms of the voluntarily mediated agreement if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances and that the modification is in the best interests of the child. A court-imposed modification of a previously approved agreement may limit, restrict, condition, decrease, or discontinue the sharing of information and/or contact between the birth parents and the child but in no event shall a court-imposed modification serve to expand, enlarge, or increase the amount of contact between the birth parents and the child or place new obligations on the parties to the agreement. The court also may impose appropriate sanctions consistent with its equitable powers but not inconsistent with this section, including the power to issue restraining orders.
          (3) If the court finds that an action brought under this subparagraph was wholly insubstantial, frivolous, and not advanced in good faith, the court may award attorneys' fees and costs to the prevailing parties.
       (j) Nothing contained in RSA 170-B:14, II shall be construed so as to abrogate the rights of the adoptive parents to make decisions on behalf of the child, except as provided in the court-approved voluntarily mediated agreement.

Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2005, 246:2, eff. Jan. 1, 2006.


170-B:15 Jurisdiction, Venue, and Inconvenient Forum. –
I. The probate court has exclusive jurisdiction to grant a petition for adoption if the adoptee is present in the state or is in the legal custody or legal guardianship of an authorized agency located in the state at the time of filing of the petition. All of the requirements of RSA 170-A, if applicable, shall be met.
II. The petition for adoption shall be filed in the probate court of the county in which the surrender has taken place, or in the probate court of the county where a guardianship under RSA 463 or a termination of parental rights under RSA 170-C proceeding has occurred related to the same adoptee.
III. If the court finds that in the interest of substantial justice the matter should be heard in another court, the court may transfer the proceeding in whole or in part to another court within the state or other foreign jurisdiction.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:16 Petition for Adoption. –
I. A proceeding to adopt a minor child, other than a related minor child, shall be commenced by the filing of a petition within 30 days after such minor child has been placed in an adoptive home, provided that such petition may be filed at a later date by leave of court upon a showing that the failure to file such petition within such 30-day period was not due to the petitioners' culpable negligence or their willful disregard of the provisions of this section.
    II. A petition to adopt an adult or a related minor child may be filed at any time.
    III. The following information shall accompany every petition for adoption:
       (a) Written surrenders as required by RSA 170-B:5.
       (b) The name of any person whose surrender is required but who has not surrendered his or her parental rights.
       (c) Facts or circumstances which excuse the lack of such surrender normally required, including but not limited to an order of termination of parental rights, forfeiture, or waiver.
    IV. A petition for adoption shall be signed and verified by the petitioner, filed with the clerk and shall state:
       (a) As the caption, "In the Adoption of __________''. The adoptee shall be designated in the caption under the person's birth name.
       (b) The date and place of birth of the adoptee, if known.
       (c) The name to be used for the adoptee.
       (d) The date and name of the court where the petitioner acquired custody of the minor and of placement of the minor and the name of the person or agency placing the minor.
       (e) The full name, age, place, and duration of residence of the petitioner.
       (f) The marital status of the petitioner, including the date and place of marriage, if married.
       (g) That the petitioner has facilities and resources, including those available under a subsidy agreement, suitable to provide for the nurture and care of the minor adoptee, and that it is the desire of the petitioner to establish the relationship of parent and child with the adoptee.
    V. A certified copy of the birth certificate or verification of birth record of the adoptee shall be sent to the court.
    VI. Any name by which the adoptee was previously known shall not be disclosed in the notice of hearing, or in the decree of adoption.
    VII. If a minor child is to be adopted from another state or country, the petition shall include documentation indicating compliance with RSA 170-A and RSA 170-B:28.
    VIII. If the surrender was executed in another state or country, or medical information was not provided as required under 170-B:9, III, the petitioner shall file with the court information on the age and medical and personal backgrounds of the birth parents and minor child. Such personal information may include but not be limited to ethnic and religious background, as is reasonably known.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:7, eff. July 30, 2006. 2011, 88:20, eff. July 1, 2011.


170-B:17 Notice of Petition. –
I. After the filing of a petition to adopt a minor, the court shall fix a time and place for hearing the petition. Notice shall be given by the court to the petitioners, all guardians of the child, the person having legal custody of the child, and the guardian ad litem of any party. Notice shall be given by regular mail.
II. After the filing of a petition to adopt an adult, the court, by order, shall direct that a copy of the petition and a notice of the time and place of the hearing be given to any person whose assent is required but who has not assented as provided in RSA 170-B:3. The court may order an appropriate assessment to assist it in determining whether the adoption is in the best interest of the persons involved.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:18 Assessment. –
I. Before the petition is heard, in the adoption of a related minor child, or an adoption of a minor child through an agency, an assessment shall be made by the department, or by a licensed child-placing agency into the conditions of the petitioner for the purpose of ascertaining whether the adoptive home is a suitable home for the minor child and whether the proposed adoption is in the best interest of the minor child. In determining whether the petitioner will be able to give the prospective adoptee a proper home and education, the court shall give due consideration to any assurance by the commissioner or designee that the commissioner will provide or contribute funds for the necessary maintenance or medical care of the prospective adoptee under an adoption subsidy agreement. The court has the discretion to also request an assessment of the extended birth family of a minor child sought to be adopted. The written report of the assessment shall be filed with the court by the investigating agency not later than 60 days after the petition has been filed in the probate court.
    II. In the adoption of a minor child, other than a related minor child or an adoption through an agency, the potential adoptive parents shall request such an assessment by the department, or by a licensed child-placing agency, at least 30 days before the minor child is placed in the parents' home. Failure to comply with the provisions of this paragraph shall be grounds for dismissal of the petition for adoption, provided that such petition may be granted upon a showing that the failure to request an assessment within such 30-day period was not due to the petitioners' culpable negligence or their willful disregard of the provisions of this paragraph. However, prior to the hearing on the petition, an assessment by the department, or by a licensed child-placing agency, shall be filed with the court.
    III. Notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 170-B:18, I and II, the court may proceed to hearing and decree without an assessment where the petitioner or petitioner's spouse is the birth parent of the minor child to be adopted. If the court has waived or limited the extent of an assessment pursuant to RSA 170-C:9, II, the court may order the petitioners to consult with a child-placing agency licensed pursuant to RSA 170-E to consider whether adoption is in the best interests of the minor child subject to the petition and themselves.
    IV. The department or a licensed child-placing agency making the required assessment may request other departments or licensed child-placing agencies within or outside this state to make the assessment or designated portions thereof as may be appropriate. Where such written assessments are made, a written report shall be filed with the court; provided, however, said report shall not violate RSA 170-A, the interstate compact on the placement of children.
    V. Notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 170-B:18, I and II, in the adoption of a related minor child, the court may, for good cause shown, proceed to a hearing and a decree without an assessment when both of the following circumstances are met:
       (a) The parents of the minor child have surrendered their parental rights; and
       (b) The minor child has resided with the petitioners to whom the child is related for at least 3 years prior to filing the petition for adoption.
    VI. Notwithstanding any of the above requirements, the court shall require a background check in all private adoption proceedings if there has not been an assessment. The background check shall include both a criminal records check conducted by the New Hampshire state police and a search of the abuse and neglect registry maintained by the department. If the court has information that the petitioner has lived in another state, the court may also request a search of that state's abuse and neglect registry.
    VII. The court shall require a background check in all adoption proceedings initiated by the department or by another child placing agency. The background check shall consist of a fingerprint-based criminal record check of national crime information databases for all prospective adoptive parents and a central registry check for all prospective adoptive parents and any other adult living in the home.
       (a) For the criminal record check required under this paragraph, the department shall submit the prospective adoptive parents' fingerprints to the department of safety, division of state police, for forwarding to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Upon completion of the criminal record check, the division of state police shall forward the results to the department.
       (b) The central registry check shall include a check of the department's central registry of founded reports of child abuse and neglect under RSA 169-C:35 and shall include a check of the child abuse and neglect registries in any other state in which the prospective adoptive parent or other adult living in the home has resided in the preceding 5 years. Information obtained from another state pursuant to this subparagraph shall be used only for the purposes of conducting the background checks.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2007, 325:2, 3, eff. July 1, 2007.


170-B:19 Hearing. –
I. The petitioner and the adoptee shall appear at the hearing on the petition, unless the presence of either is excused by the court for good cause shown.
II. The court may continue the hearing from time to time to permit further observation, assessment, or consideration of any facts or circumstances affecting the granting of the petition.
III. In the case of an adult adoptee, if at the conclusion of the hearing, the court determines that the required assents as required by RSA 170-B:3 have been obtained and the adoption is in the adoptee's best interests, the court may issue a final decree of adoption.
IV. In the case of a minor adoptee, if at the conclusion of the hearing the court determines that the required surrenders have been obtained or excused and that the adoption is in the best interest of the adoptee, it:
(a) May issue a final decree of adoption, where the petitioner or the petitioner's spouse is a birth parent of the minor adoptee;
(b) May issue a final decree of adoption in the adoption of a related minor child pursuant to RSA 170-B:18, V; or
(c) Shall issue an interlocutory decree of adoption which shall not become final until the minor adoptee has lived in the adoptive home for at least 6 months after placement by an agency or the department or for at least 6 months after the department or the court has been informed of the custody of the minor by the petitioner, and the department or a licensed child-placing agency has had an opportunity to observe or investigate the adoptive home.
V. Before a final decree of adoption is issued in the adoption of a minor child not related to the petitioner or one of the petitioners, the petitioners shall file with the court on forms supplied by the department an affidavit listing the amount of fees or other charges, whether in the form of cash, gifts, or other thing of value, paid to, or on behalf of, birth parents, physicians, attorneys, or any other person in connection with the adoption, including but not limited to fees for medical, legal, or assessment services conducted pursuant to RSA 170-B:18, or board and care for the birth mother or minor child.
VI. If the requirements of a decree under RSA 170-B:19, III or IV have not been met, the court shall either:
(a) Dismiss the petition and determine the person to have custody of the minor child pursuant to RSA 170-B:20, III; or
(b) Extend the interlocutory period, and determine the person to have custody of the minor child, including the petitioners if in the best interest of the minor child. The court may provide for observation, assessment, and further report on the adoptive home during the extended interlocutory period.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.

170-B:20 Dismissal of Adoption Proceedings. –
I. If at any time between the filing of a petition and the issuance of the final order completing the adoption it is known to the court that circumstances are such that the adoptee should not be adopted, the court may dismiss the proceedings.
II. Before entering an order to dismiss the proceedings and prior to a hearing, the court shall give notice of not less than 5 days to the petitioners and to the department or agency having made the assessment, and they shall be entitled to be present at such hearing to admit or refute the facts upon which the impending action of the court is based.
III. If the petition is dismissed or withdrawn, the custody of the minor child shall revert to the department or agency having had custody prior to the filing of the petition. In all other cases when a petition is dismissed or withdrawn, the minor child shall be placed in the custody of the department and the court shall order the department to make further assessment and report to the court regarding a suitable plan for the future well-being of the minor child.
IV. The court may order and require persons having an obligation, to contribute to the support and maintenance of the minor child in such amounts and at such times as it determines are just and reasonable.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:21 Appeals and Validation of Adoption Decrees. –
I. An appeal from any final or interlocutory decree rendered by the court may be taken in the manner and time provided in RSA 567-A, except that no appeal shall be allowed from any order or decree involving proceedings for adoption unless taken within 30 days from receipt of such order or decree.
II. Subject to the disposition of an appeal upon the expiration of one year after a final adoption decree is issued, the decree cannot be challenged by any person including the petitioner, in any manner upon any ground, including fraud, misrepresentation, failure to give any required notice, or lack of jurisdiction of the parties or of the subject matter.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:22 Report of Adoption. –
I. Within 7 days after the final decree is filed, the clerk shall send a hard copy of the report of the adoption to the town clerk of the town where the adoptee was born, to the commissioner, and to the department of state, division of vital records administration. The department of state, division of vital records administration shall provide suitable forms for such reports.
    II. Each month the clerk shall send to the department, on forms supplied by the department, summaries of the affidavits filed pursuant to RSA 170-B:19, V. The department shall publish an annual report relative to general fees and other charges for adoption and related services.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:8, eff. July 30, 2006. 2011, 88:20, eff. July 1, 2011.


170-B:23 Confidentiality of Records. – Notwithstanding any other law concerning public hearings and records:
I. All hearings held in adoptive proceedings shall be in closed court without admittance of any person other than essential officers of the court, the parties, their witnesses, counsel, and representatives of the agencies present to perform their official duties.
II. All papers and records, including birth certificates, pertaining to the adoption, whether part of the permanent record of the court or of a file in the division, in an agency or office of the town clerk or the bureau of vital records and health statistics are subject to inspection only upon written order of the court for good cause shown, except as otherwise provided in RSA 170-B:24.
III. Nothing contained in this section or RSA 170-B:24 shall prevent the department or the licensed child-placing agency from sharing with the adoptive parents all information it has available about the minor child being placed for adoption. The department or the licensed child-placing agency shall delete any information which would tend to identify a birth parent.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:24 Requests for Identifying and Non-Identifying Information. –
    I. Requests for non-identifying social or medical information shall be handled in the following manner:
       (a) Requests for non-identifying social or medical information may be made by an adoptee over the age of 18; a parent of an adoptee under the age of 18; or a birth parent of an adoptee.
       (b) When any of the above listed people submits a request for non-identifying social or medical information, the department or agency shall disclose such information relating to the adoptee, the birth parents, or the blood relatives. The department or the agency shall delete any information from the health history or background which would tend to be identifying. Court approval is not required for information disclosed under this paragraph.
    II. If the parties mutually agree to the release of identifying information, it shall be released as provided in this paragraph.
       (a) Only the following people may sign a written release authorizing the department or licensed child-placing agency to disclose identifying information about an adoptee, a birth parent, or a blood relative:
          (1) An adoptee over the age of 18 may sign a release to authorize disclosure of identifying information as provided in this section.
          (2) The adoptive parents of an adoptee under the age of 18 may also sign a release to authorize disclosure of identifying information as provided in this section. However, said release shall become void when the adoptee reaches the age of 18.
          (3) A birth parent of an adoptee may sign a release authorizing disclosure of identifying information as provided in this section at the time of surrender or later. A separate release shall be signed by each birth parent.
       (b) Any release made pursuant to this section may be revoked or amended at any time.
       (c) The person signing the release of information or its revocation shall file a copy of such release or revocation with the department or licensed child-placing agency conducting the assessment under RSA 170-B:18, if any. The department or licensed child-placing agency shall then file a copy of the release with the court in which the adoption petition was filed.
       (d) The release of information shall contain the social security number of the person signing the release. The social security number shall be used only for purposes of locating that person and shall not be otherwise disclosed.
       (e) When the department or agency involved in the adoption receives a request for identifying information where a release has been signed and not previously revoked, the department or agency shall attempt to contact the person who signed the release to reaffirm that person's desire to be contacted. If the person reaffirms his or her desire to be contacted or the department or agency cannot locate the person who signed the release or if the person is deceased, the department or agency shall disclose identifying information to the person who requested it. Court approval is not required for information disclosed under this paragraph.
       (f) When the department or agency involved in the adoption receives a request for identifying information where no release has been signed or the previously signed release has been revoked, the department or agency may, after review of its records, attempt to contact the person whose identity is sought, to ascertain if they desire to release identifying information. If the person whose identity is sought, and the person seeking identifying information agree to the release of identifying information, the department or agency shall release it. Court approval is not required for information released under this subparagraph.
    III. Court approval shall be required prior to the release of identifying information in the following cases:
       (a) If the parties do not agree, or if they cannot be contacted, or if the department or agency questions the safety of releasing information pursuant to paragraph II, the requesting party or the department or agency may petition the court having jurisdiction for the release of identifying information. The department or agency shall file a report of the department or agency's action with the court. The court shall on its own motion or on request of any party hold a hearing on the issue of releasing identifying information. The department or agency involved shall receive notice of the hearing and be entitled to participate in any hearing under this section.
       (b) For all other requests for identifying information under this section, court approval shall be required. The court shall request a review of the record and the facts of the request from the department or agency involved in the adoption. The court may hold a hearing on the issue of releasing identifying information. The department or agency involved shall receive notice of such hearings and be entitled to participate in any hearing under this section.
    IV. Any person violating this section or RSA 170-B:23 shall, if a natural person, be guilty of a misdemeanor, and any other person shall be guilty of a felony.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:9, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:25 Effect of Petition and Decree of Adoption; Inheritance. –
  I. Upon the issuance of the final decree of adoption, the adoptee shall be considered the child of the adopting parent or parents, entitled to the same rights and privileges and subject to the same duties and obligations as if such adoptee had been born of the adopting parent or parents.
    II. Until the issuance of the final decree of adoption, the adoptee shall be considered the child of such adoptee's birth parent or parents only with respect to inheritance rights or privileges; but, when a child is adopted by a stepparent, the child's relationship to such child's birth parent who is married to the stepparent shall in no way be altered by reason of the adoption.
    III. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, upon the issuance of a final decree of adoption in which only one spouse is petitioner, the adopted child shall be the child of the adopting spouse. Such child's relationship to the birth parent of the same sex as the non-adopting spouse shall not be altered if the child and the birth parent so agree. Such child shall no longer be deemed to be the child of such child's birth parent of the same sex as the adopting spouse.
    IV. Until the issuance of a final decree of adoption, all reciprocal rights of inheritance between the adoptee and the adoptee's birth parents and their respective collateral or lineal relatives shall continue to exist.
    V. Upon the issuance of a final decree of adoption, all reciprocal rights of inheritance between the adoptee and the adoptive parents and their respective collateral or lineal relatives shall contemporaneously begin.
    VI. Nothing contained in this section shall limit in any way the right of any person to provide for the disposition of his or her property by will. The rights of a child adopted after the making of a will by the adoptive parent or parents shall be the same as the rights of an after-born child. When the adoptive parent is a stepparent, married to a birth parent, nothing contained in this section shall affect the rights of inheritance between the child and such child's birth parent or their collateral or lineal relatives. In the absence of specific language to the contrary, an adoptee shall be considered the same as a birth child, issue or heir of the body.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:10, 11, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:26 Change of Name. – If in a petition for the adoption of a child a change of name is requested, the court, upon decreeing the adoption, may also decree such change of name.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:27 Readoption. –
I. Any adoptee may be readopted in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. All provisions relating to the birth parent or parents shall apply to the adoptive parent or parents except that in no case of readoption shall a birth parent be made a party to the proceedings, nor shall the surrender of parental rights by a birth parent be necessary. For purposes of service of process, necessary parties and surrender, the adoptive parent or parents shall be substituted for the birth parent.
    II. The court may validate and issue an adoption decree for an adoption finalized in another jurisdiction, provided that evidence satisfactory to the court is produced to demonstrate the validity of such adoption. For the purposes of this paragraph, satisfactory evidence includes documentation from the United States Department of Justice or the United States Department of State that a legal adoption has been completed in another country. Probate court rules shall specify such acceptable documentation.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005. 2006, 200:12, eff. July 30, 2006.


170-B:28 Placement of a Child From Another State or Country. – Any person or any public or private agency, corporation, or organization, before bringing or causing any child to be brought into this state from any other state or country for the purpose of adoption, or receiving such child in this state for such purpose, shall make application to the commissioner of the department. Such application shall be in the form prescribed by the commissioner and shall contain such information as the commissioner may require, including any information required to comply with the provisions of RSA 170-A. No placement of the child shall occur until permission has been obtained from the commissioner. No petition for adoption of a child from another state or country shall be granted in the absence of compliance with this section.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:29 Recognition of Foreign Decree Affecting Adoption. – A decree of court terminating the relationship of parent and child or establishing the relation by adoption issued pursuant to due process of law by a court of any other jurisdiction within or without the United States shall be recognized in this state and the rights and obligations of the parties as to matters within the jurisdiction of this state shall be determined as though the decree was issued by a court of this state.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:30 Fees and Court Costs. – All entry fees and court costs shall be paid by the petitioner. The court, however, may waive entry fees and court costs where payment would work a hardship on the petitioner. The department is exempt from paying any entry fees and court costs.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


170-B:31 Amended Birth Certificate. – A birth certificate issued for an adoptee shall make no reference to adoption and shall conform as nearly as possible to any other birth certificate.
Source. 2004, 255:1, eff. Jan. 2, 2005.


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