Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Mother and Father were married and had three minor children. After Mother and Father divorced, the family court ordered that Father’s parents should have visitation with the children every other Saturday. Mother appealed, asserting that the family court erred in granting grandparent visitation. The circuit court refused Mother’s petition for appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the family court exceeded its authority under the West Virginia Grandparent Visitation Act when it awarded visitation with the children to the grandparents; and (2) the circuit court continued the legal error in refusing Mother’s petition for appeal. Remanded for entry of an order denying grandparent visitation rights to the grandparents. View "Alyssha R. v. Nicholas H." on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed a petition to institute abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother regarding her child K.L. The DHHR’s petition against Mother was based solely on the prior involuntary termination as to another child C.W. The circuit court terminated Mother’s parental rights after finding that Mother failed to meet her burden of showing a change in her circumstances since the termination of her parental rights to C.W. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court committed reversible error in shifting the burden to Mother in this abuse and neglect case. Remanded. View "In re K.L." on Justia Law

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Four days before their wedding, Husband and Wife executed a prenuptial agreement. Wife later filed for divorce, and Husband requested enforcement of the prenuptial agreement. The family court invalidated the prenuptial agreement on the grounds that Wife did not enter into the agreement with full knowledge of the contents of the agreement and its legal effect. The family court ultimately divided the parties’ marital estate equally. The circuit court largely affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the portion of the circuit court’s order that ruled that the prenuptial agreement was unenforceable; but (2) reversed the portion of the circuit court’s order related to the equitable distribution of the parties’ marital estate. Remanded. View "Owen v. Owen" on Justia Law

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Wife conveyed real estate to her five adult children without providing notice to Husband during the pendency of the parties’ divorce. The family court ruled that Wife’s conveyance of the subject property without notice to Husband violated W. Va. Code 43-1-2(b) and ordered that the value of the property be included in the calculation of the marital property. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order and reinstated the order of the family court, holding (1) Husband was entitled to statutory notice of the real estate conveyance under the plain language of section 43-1-2(b); and (2) the family court applied the proper remedy for a violation of this notice provision. View "Stanley v. Stanley" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Resources filed a petition for abuse and neglect, alleging that Father had repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted F.S., his daughter. The circuit court dismissed the petition for abuse and neglect, concluding that the facts did not constitute clear and convincing evidence of abuse by Father due to inconsistencies in F.S.’s allegations and in Mother’s statements regarding the sexual abuse. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, based upon all the evidence presented, the circuit court erred in dismissing the petition and finding lack of clear and convincing evidence that Father abused F.S. Remanded for entry of an order adjudicating F.S. and her brother Z.S. as abused children based upon the sexual abuse perpetrated upon F.S. by Father. View "In re F.S." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father were married when C.R. was born in 2001. Mother and Father later divorced. In 2004, Father was convicted of first degree sexual abuse and, at the time of this opinion, was serving probation. Mother and C.R. had been living continuously with Stepfather since 2006. Mother and Stepfather married in 2010 and subsequently filed a petition for adoption to permit Stepfather to adopt C.R. Father refused to consent to the adoption. The circuit court denied the adoption on the grounds that “the biological father has not abandoned the minor child.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the elements of the statutory presumption of abandonment set forth in W. Va. Code 48-22-306 were satisfied in this case, neither Father’s consent to the requested adoption nor his relinquishment of his parental rights was required. Remanded. View "In re Adoption of C.R." on Justia Law

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Following allegations of sexual abuse and failure to protect, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) brought a child abuse and neglect proceeding against Father and Mother (Petitioners). After an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the children were abused and neglected, and, after a dispositional hearing, terminated the parental rights of Petitioners. Petitioners appealed, arguing that their procedural due process rights were violated when the out-of-court statements of two children were admitted to prove allegations of sexual abuse when Petitioners were not given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine the children. The Supreme Court affirmed the termination of Petitioners’ parental rights, holding (1) in a child abuse and neglect civil proceeding held pursuant to W. Va. Code 29-6-2, a party does not have a procedural due process right to confront and cross-examine a child, and the circuit court shall exclude this testimony if it finds the potential psychological harm to the child outweighs the necessity of the child’s testimony; and (2) the circuit court adequately safeguarded Petitioners’ procedural due process rights in this case. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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Approximately one month after I.T. was born, Mother and I.T. moved into Grandmother’s residence. Mother moved out of Grandmother’s residence five months later, leaving I.T. in Grandmother’s care. Grandmother subsequently filed a petition requesting that she be appointed guardian of I.T. The circuit court denied the guardianship petition, finding (1) Grandmother failed to present evidence that Mother was an unfit mother; and (2) there was no finding of abuse or neglect by Mother upon I.T. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) issuing its ruling prior to receiving the report of I.T.’s guardian ad litem or the results of a paternity test; and (2) denying Grandmother’s guardianship petition. View "In re I.T." on Justia Law

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Mother filed two domestic violence petitions on behalf of B.C., her minor child. Mother’s second petition was granted, and an emergency protective order was entered in favor of B.C. and against Father. Mother subsequently filed an amended abuse and neglect petition asking the circuit court to terminate Father’s parental rights based upon his alleged abuse and neglect of B.C. The allegations were essentially the same allegations made in the domestic violence petition. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that it was barred by the doctrine of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that even if a civil domestic violence proceeding and a civil abuse and neglect proceeding involve the same underlying facts, the separate proceedings do not implicate the doctrines of res judicata or collateral estoppel. View "In re B.C." on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, Husband appealed and Wife cross-appealed from the final order entered by the circuit court. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded in part and affirmed in part the decision of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in its valuation of Husband’s marital interest in Advantage Timberland, Inc. (“Advantage”) and erred in its calculation of child support; and (2) did not err in (i) reversing the decision of the family court regarding rehabilitative spousal support; (ii) attributing one-third of the value of Advantage to Husband’s personal good will; and (iii) not awarding attorney’s fees and costs to Wife. View "Ward v. Ward" on Justia Law