Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order entered by the circuit court terminating Father's improvement period and terminating his parental rights to his son, M.O., holding that there was no error on the part of the circuit court.On appeal, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services and the child's guardian ad litem both argued that termination of Father's parental rights and his improvement period was required even though he complied earlier with services provided during his improvement period. The Supreme Court agreed and affirmed, holding (1) when considering the entirety of the circumstances, Father failed sufficiently improve to justify the return of M.O. to his home; and (2) the circuit court did not err in concluding that there was no reasonable likelihood that the conditions of abuse and neglect could substantially be corrected in the near future and that it was in the best interests of the child that Father's parental rights be terminated. View "In re M.O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the final order of the circuit court terminating Mother's rights to her infant son in an abuse and neglect proceeding, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition alleging that the child was abused and/or neglected. The petition stated that Mother and the child were residents of Tazewell County, Virginia but that the circuit court had jurisdiction because West Virginia was the home state of the child at the commencement of this proceeding. When DHHR was granted emergency legal custody of the child, Mother returned home to Virginia. The circuit court adjudicated Mother as an abusing parent and subsequently terminated her rights. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court did not have subject matter jurisdiction in this proceeding. View "In re Z.H." on Justia Law

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In this petition challenging two circuit court rulings the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling dismissing Petitioner's writ of prohibition and reversed the monetary sanction the circuit court imposed on Petitioner's attorney, Gregory Schillace, holding that Schillace was entitled to a jury trial on this sanction.Petitioner filed a complaint for declaratory relief, writ of prohibition and other relief seeking to enforce the terms of a divorce settlement entered into by Petitioner and his former wife and seeking to prevent the family court from proceeding with a contempt hearing against Petitioner and Schillace. At issue was a monetary sanction the circuit court imposed on Schillace and the circuit court's ruling dismissing Petitioner's writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court correctly dismissed Petitioner's writ of prohibition; and (2) Schillace was entitled to a jury trial on the monetary sanction. View "Rector v. Ross" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the order of the family court, which crafted a reunification plan with the goal of allowing grandparent of visitation to Respondents, the paternal grandparents of the six children in this case, holding that Petitioner did not meet her burden to demonstrate error.Upon her divorce from the children's father, Petitioner was granted full custody of the children. In the presence of all the children, the maternal grandfather shot and killed the father and then shot and killed himself. Respondents subsequently filed a petition for grandparent visitation. After a hearing, the family court ordered grandparent visitation. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to meet her burden of showing that the judgment below was erroneous. View "In re Grandparent Visitation of L.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's termination of Mother's parental rights to her infant child, who died during the pendency of these abuse and neglect proceedings, holding that W. Va. Code 49-4-604(c)(6) does not permit termination of parental rights following the death of the child who is the subject of the underlying abuse and neglect petition.Mother entered a voluntary stipulation of adjudication admitting that she neglected the infant by subjecting it to drug abuse and/or a drug-endangered environment and by using and abusing alcohol and drugs. The infant subsequently died. Mother moved to dismiss the petition against her. The circuit court denied the motion and later terminated Mother's parental rights to the child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the death of the only child named in an abuse and neglect petition requires its post-adjudicatory dismissal. View "In re A.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the circuit court affirming the family court's determination that Respondent was the legal father of Child, holding that the circuit court erred in upholding the family court's paternity determination.The family court concluded that Respondent was the legal parent of Child and conducted both a de facto adoption and de facto termination of parental rights. In affirming the determination of the family court, the circuit court upheld the family court's refusal to admit DNA test results demonstrating that Petitioner was Child's biological father. The Supreme Court vacated the decisions of the lower courts and remanded the case, holding (1) the lower courts erred in their decision to disregard the paternity test results; and (2) to the extent that both a de facto adoption and termination of parental rights occurred in family court, the court acted beyond its jurisdiction. View "Corey D. v. Michelle H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying C.R.'s motion to modify a provision in final adoption orders prohibiting visitation between her adoptive children and R.R., her former husband, holding that this provision in the final adoption orders was an impermissible restriction on C.R.'s parental rights.Prior to and during abuse and neglect proceedings, J.S. and K.S. were in the custody of C.R., their biological aunt, and R.R. When it was discovered that R.R. was a user of illicit drugs C.R. filed for divorce and then filed an amended petition seeking to adopt J.S. and K.S. as a single parent. The circuit court granted the adoptions, but the orders provided that C.R. was enjoined and restrained from permitting contact by the children with R.R. C.R. filed a motion to modify the injunction, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court's attempt to restrict C.R.'s parental rights denied her due process of law. View "In re Adoption of J.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the final order of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff in this case alleging that Defendant fraudulently and intentionally concealed for more than a decade the fact that Plaintiff was the father of Defendant's child, holding that summary judgment should have been granted in favor of Defendant.In her motion for summary judgment, Defendant argued that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff had waived her statute of limitations defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in concluding that Defendant had waived her defense based on the statute of limitations; and (2) Plaintiff's claims were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. View "Coffield v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to intervene in an abuse and neglect matter, holding that Petitioners had a right to a timely evidentiary hearing to determine their suitability for temporary placement.Soon after G.S., their grandchild, was born, Petitioners filed their petition for guardianship supported by written agreements signed by both parents purporting to transfer custody to Petitioners. The circuit court dismissed the petition. Thereafter, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition against G.S.'s parents. Petitioners moved to intervene, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioners had a right to be heard at a preliminary hearing to determine their suitability for temporary placement. View "In re G.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court reversing the family court's determination that Mother's child support obligation was $0, holding that the circuit court did not err.At the time of the parties' divorce Mother received custody of the two children, and Father was ordered to pay child support. The family court subsequently modified the custodial arrangement and granted primary custody of the children to Father. The family court determined that Mother's child support obligation was $0. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the family court erred in giving Mother credit for social security benefits received by the children. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly applied W. Va. Code 48-13-603(a) in reversing the family court's determination that Mother, the nondisabled child support obligor, was entitled to credit for social security benefits paid to the children, who resided with Father, the disabled obligee. View "Amanda B. v. Hakeem M." on Justia Law