Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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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

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The Supreme Court denied Husband's petition for writ of prohibition challenging the circuit court's ruling on a motion to vacate and its authority to transfer the case to family court, holding that the court's decision to remand the case to the family court was not in excess of its jurisdiction.Husband, an attorney, filed a petition for divorce. Husband filed a signed property settlement agreement and financial statements that he drafted. Husband then filed the case in the circuit court pursuant to W. Va. Code 51-2A-2(b). The court entered a final divorce order without holding a hearing or giving notice to Wife. Wife later filed a motion to vacate and set aside the final divorce order. The circuit court granted the motion in part and transferred the case to the family court for resolution of issues involving support and equitable distribution. Husband then filed this petition for writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that court did not err in granting the motion to vacate in part and that the court had the authority to transfer the case to family court. View "State ex rel. J. William St. Clair v. Honorable Gregory L. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Aaron W.'s requested writ of prohibition seeking to prevent Robert M. Montgomery, Judge of the Family Court of Kanawha County, from holding a hearing or otherwise deciding Evelyn W.'s motion to disqualify Aaron's counsel, holding that the family courts of this State have the authority to disqualify attorneys appearing before them.In this case that originated as a divorce proceeding, Evelyn filed a motion to disqualify Aaron's attorney from representing him in the divorce proceedings. Aaron filed a petition for writ prohibition in the circuit court seeking to prevent the family court from hearing or ruling on the motion, claiming that family courts lack jurisdictional authority to decide matters pertaining to the disqualification of attorneys. The circuit court denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court had the jurisdictional authority to hear and rule upon Evelyn's disqualification motion. View "Aaron W. v. Honorable Robert M. Montgomery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court that denied Petitioner's appeal of an order of the family court modifying an infant guardianship order to prohibit Petitioner from having any contact with his child, J.B., holding that Petitioner's due process rights were violated.On appeal, Petitioner argued that the family court erred by failing to give him adequate notice or the opportunity to be heard at the final hearing in this matter. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the circuit court's final order, holding that Petitioner was not afforded his due process rights as the father of J.B. when he was not afforded the opportunity to refute the family court's assumption that he was unfit to have contact with his child. The Court remanded this case for a full evidentiary hearing before the family court. View "David C. v. Tammy S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court modifying the disposition of this case to terminate Petitioners' parental rights under W. Va. Code Ann. 49-4-604(c)(6), holding that the circuit court erred in modifying the disposition absent a motion under section 49-4-606 and that the parties were deprived of due process when they were not notified that the circuit court intended to take up a motion to modify disposition.In 2017, the circuit court ordered a "section 5" disposition, concluding that Petitioners were unwilling or unable to provide for B.W.'s needs and that there were no parenting services available specifically tailed to Petitioners' need for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 through 12213. The court did not terminate Petitioners' parental rights at that time but dismissed the case from its docket. In 2019, the circuit court held a status hearing and sua sponte modified the case's disposition to terminate Petitioners' parental rights. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that termination of Petitioners' parental rights violated the procedure required by section 49-4-606 to modify disposition and denied Petitioners due process. View "In re B.W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court removing the child B.A. from the custody of Petitioners, foster parents, holding that the circuit court properly considered Petitioners' finances but that remand was required for a full analysis of the facts within the framework of the sibling preference contained in W. Va. Code 49-4-111(e) and the holding in In re Carol B., 550 S.E.2d 636 (W. Va. 2001).Petitioners had already adopted B.A.'s older sibling when B.A. was placed in their foster care. The guardian ad litem appointed to represent B.A. later discovered a number of liens and judgments against Petitioners, as well as more than $46,000 in unpaid child support. The guardian recommended that B.A. be removed from Petitioners' custody due to those issues. The circuit court directed that B.A. be removed from Petitioners' custody, finding that Petitioners would not meet the prerequisites to adopt the child under W. Va. Code 48-22-701(d). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in its apparent failure to place any weight on Petitioners' adoption of B.A.'s sibling and that Petitioners' home was the only home B.A. had ever known. The Court remanded the case for the circuit court to perform a best interests analysis making detailed consideration of the sibling preference. View "In re B.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's order affirming the order of the family court refusing Petitioner's motion for a downward modification of his monthly child support obligation to Respondent for the benefit of their three children, holding that the circuit court erred in allowing the family court to refuse to modify the parenting plan and child support award on the basis of Respondent's higher income and the current custodial arrangement.Specifically, the Supreme Court (1) affirmed the portion of the circuit court's order leaving unchanged the amount of income attributed to Petitioner in the parties' original child support order; but (2) reversed the portion of the circuit court's order failing to modify child support based upon the fact that two of the parties' children now reside with Petitioner and his family instead of Respondent and that Respondent's income had substantially increased since the entry of the child support order. The Court remanded this case for the family court to hold a hearing, make findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding child support, and to enter a modified child support order in accordance with the provisions of this opinion. View "Hassan G. v. Tamra P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's May 15, 2019 amended adjudicatory order in the underlying abuse and neglect case, holding that the circuit court erred by refusing to find both that Father had committed sexual abuse of A.M. and that Mother was an abusive and/or neglectful parent because she had failed to protect both of her children from such abuse.By the 2019 order, the circuit court determined Father to be an abusive and/or neglectful parent of his two children and concluded that Mother had committed no abuse and/or neglect of the children. On appeal, the children's guardian ad litem argued that the circuit court erred by failing also to adjudicate Father of sexual abuse of the oldest child, A.M. and by not finding Mother to be an abusive and/or neglectful parent based upon her failure to protect the children from such sexual abuse. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the circuit court's 2019 amended adjudicatory order and to enter a new amended adjudicatory order finding that Father sexually abused A.M. and that Mother was an abusive and/or neglectful parent. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law