Adoption/Termination of Parental Rights
Mediation is one avenue by which to resolve a termination of parental rights (TPR) case by having birth parents, pre-adoptive parents, and the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) to enter into a voluntarily mediated agreement. If you are a birth parent, you will be required to surrender your child as part of the mediated agreement but the agreement will also allow you to receive post-surrender updates of your child. Surrendering means that the birth parent will no longer have a say over how the child is raised, where the child lives, and will no longer have legal rights to see the child. If you are a pre-adoptive parent, mediating a TPR case will result in a faster route to permanency for the child. Mediation is entirely voluntary. You do not need to participate in mediation, and if you do participate in mediation, you do not need to reach an agreement.
When Mediation Occurs
Mediation becomes an option after the abuse and neglect case (RSA 169-C) has concluded and the court has determined that adoption should be the permanency plan for the child(ren). Typically, DCYF has also filed TPR petitions against both birth parents, and the child(ren) is living with the prospective adoptive parents. Best practice is that the court will review the voluntarily mediated agreement that comes out of mediating the TPR case at the TPR preliminary hearing.
Participants at a TPR mediation
Each birth parent must attend their own separate TPR mediation. The birth parent, the birth parent’s attorney, the pre-adoptive parents and DCYF are parties to the mediation. Sometimes a guardian ad litem (representing the interests of the child) may be invited to attend the mediation. Other people may also be invited to participate in the mediation if everyone agrees. Invitees are not allowed to sign the agreement.
In order for the court to consider referring the case to mediation:
- The birth parent must file a Notice of Intent to Mediate AND
- The pre-adoptive parent and DCYF must file a Request for Mediation
Because mediation is voluntary, both documents should be filed to indicate that all parties are consenting to refer the case to mediation.
If the case is referred to mediation, you, and all the other parties, will receive a Notice of Mediation Session.
Cost of Mediation
Mediation is free.
The Mediation Process
The mediation will occur at the date and time listed on the Notice of Mediation. You are given three (3) hours for mediation. The mediation starts with the mediator explaining the process and the ground rules for participation. You can find the ground rules in the Mediation Participation Agreement. The mediator will then lead you and the other parties through a discussion. The mediator may choose to speak with you (and your attorney) alone, or with the other parties alone. If you and the other parties reach a voluntarily mediated agreement, the mediator will draft the agreement and send it to all the parties for their signatures.
Outcomes of Mediation
At the conclusion of your mediation session, the following may occur:
- Agreement Reached: The birth parent has agreed to surrender his/her parental rights, and all parties have agreed on what post-surrender updates the birth parent will receive. The agreement must then be signed by the birth parent, the pre-adoptive parents, and DCYF. All signees must do so under oath that they are entering into the agreement voluntarily. If the youth involved is over fourteen (14) years of age, the guardian ad litem and DCYF will explain the agreement to the youth and ask the youth if the youth approves of the agreement. If the youth approves, then the youth will sign a copy of the agreement. At the next TPR court hearing, the court will review the agreement. The parties will receive the guardian ad litem report and the voluntarily mediated agreement before the court hearing. The court will review the agreement with the parties and also go over some additional provisions with them, as described on page 106 of the protocols. The court will approve the agreement if the court feels that the agreement is in the best interests of the child.
- No agreement: The mediator will notify the court that you and the other parties did not reach an agreement. The case will continue along the termination of parental rights trial path.
Termination of Parental Rights Mediators are highly qualified professionals —attorneys, mental health clinicians, etc.—with extensive training in conflict resolution, communication skills, and ethics who facilitate discussions between parties. Mediators assigned to TPR cases have additional knowledge in child protection laws, child development, and often have additional training in or experience with abuse/neglect cases. They also have experience in mediating cases involving multiple parties. Though some are attorneys, the mediator will not offer legal advice.
Laws, Rules, and Procedures
- Notice of intent to mediate (NHJB-2542-F) (birth parents)
- Request for mediation (NHJB-2543-F) (DCYF and pre-adoptive parents)
- Mediation Participation Agreement (NHJB-2179-FP)
- Voluntarily Mediated Agreement (NHJB-2302-FP)
- Surrender of parental rights (NHJB-2080-FP)
- ADR report (NHJB-2324-DFP)
- Mediator Statement for Payment (NHJB-2630-DFP)
General Adoption/TPR questions: 1-855-212-1234
Mediation questions: email@example.com
Let us know how mediation worked for you: www.surveymonkey.com/r/NHMediation