A trial is a hearing to determine whether an adoption petition should be granted.
A trial on a contested adoption petition shall commence within ninety (90) days of the filing of the petition or notice of a contested hearing, whichever is later. The trial shall be completed within thirty (30) days of commencement. Either or both deadlines may be extended for up to an additional thirty (30) days upon a showing of good cause and a finding by the court that the extension is in the best interests of the child.
(Amended effective January 1, 2007.)
At the beginning of the trial, the court shall on the record:
(a) verify the name, age, and current address of the child who is the subject of the proceeding, except as provided in Rule 20.03;
(b) determine whether the Indian child's tribe has been notified, if the child has been determined to be an Indian child;
(c) determine whether all parties are present and identify those present for the record;
(d) determine whether any necessary biological parent, guardian, or other person from whom consent to the adoption or whose parental rights will need to be terminated is present; and
(e) determine whether notice requirements have been met, and, if not, whether the affected person waives notice.
That trial shall proceed as follows:
(a) The parties, in the order determined by the court at the pretrial conference, may make an opening statement or may make a statement immediately before offering evidence on their own petition and the statement shall be confined to the facts expected to be proved.
(b) The parties, in the order determined by the court at the pretrial conference, may offer evidence.
(c) The parties, in the order determined by the court at the pretrial conference, may offer evidence in rebuttal.
(d) When evidence is presented, the parties may, in the order determined by the court at the pretrial conference, cross-examine the witnesses.
(e) At the conclusion of the evidence, the parties may make closing statements in the reverse order in which they presented their evidence.
(f) If a written argument is to be submitted, it shall be submitted within fifteen (15) days of the conclusion of testimony, and the trial is not considered completed until the time for written arguments to be submitted has expired.
The petitioner shall prove by a preponderance of evidence the facts alleged in the adoption petition and that the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
A motion for a judgment may be made at the close of the evidence offered by an opponent or at the close of all evidence. A party who moves for judgment at the close of the evidence offered by an opponent shall, after denial of the motion, have the right to offer evidence as if the motion had not been made. A motion for a judgment shall state the specific grounds therefore.
Within fifteen (15) days of the conclusion of the trial in a contested matter, the court shall issue findings of fact, conclusions of law, an order for judgment, and an adoption decree pursuant to Rule 45. If written argument is to be submitted, such argument must be submitted within fifteen (15) days of the conclusion of testimony. For good cause, the court may extend this period for an additional fifteen (15) days. The trial is not considered completed until written arguments, if any, are submitted or the time for submission of written arguments has expired.
For adoption matters involving a child who is a ward of the Commissioner of Human Services, if there has been no opportunity for the adopting parent to apply for adoption assistance, the court shall delay issuing its findings of fact, conclusions of law, order for judgment, and adoption decree pursuant to Rule 45 until such time as the responsible social services agency documents for the court that either the commissioner has acted upon an adoption assistance application made on behalf of the adopting parent and child or the adopting parent has declined in writing to apply for adoption assistance. "Acted upon" means the commissioner or commissioner's delegate has signed an adoption assistance agreement or denied adoption assistance eligibility pursuant to a completed application submitted to the Department of Human Services. Nothing in this rule grants jurisdiction over the commissioner in regard to procedures or substantive decisions regarding the award or denial of adoption assistance.
(Amended effective January 1, 2007; amended effective August 1, 2009.)