Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
In re S.W.
Mother and Father’s first child, L.W., died due to abusive head trauma in 2009. Father confessed to causing L.W.’s death and pleaded guilty to felony manslaughter. Father subsequently denied that any abuse or neglect of L.W. occurred. In 2012, Mother and Father’s second child, S.W., was born. The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition against Mother and Father, alleging that Father was subject to an aggravated circumstances filing based upon his conviction of manslaughter. The circuit court granted emergency custody of S.W. to the DHHR. After a disposition hearing, the circuit court directed the DHHR to develop a plan for reunification between S.W. and Father. DHHR appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in ordering reunification because Father’s failure to acknowledge responsibility for the death of L.W. rendered the conditions and circumstances in the home untreatable. Remanded for entry of an order terminating the parental rights of Father to S.W. View " In re S.W." on Justia Law
In re B.H.
The circuit court adjudicated Mother’s two children abused and neglected and awarded Mother a six-month post-adjudicatory improvement period. After the conclusion of Mother’s improvement period, the circuit court granted primary custodial responsibility to the children’s father (Father) and granted Mother unsupervised visitation with the children. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by granting Father primary custody of the children where (1) Mother had substantially complied with the terms and conditions of her improvement period because, in making the final disposition in a child abuse and neglect proceeding, the level of a parent’s compliance with the terms and conditions of an improvement period is just one factor to be considered; and (2) any delay in awarding unsupervised visitation to permit Mother to demonstrate what she had learned from her improvement period was due to Mother’s own actions, which caused continuing concern for the children’s safety. View "In re B.H." on Justia Law
State v. Kimberly S.
Upon Mother’s divorce from Father, Mother was designated primary custodian of their daughter. When the daughter was seven years old, Mother was arrested upon a charge of child neglect. Mother pleaded guilty to contributing to the neglect of a minor. The family court designated Father as the daughter’s custodian and established a temporary visitation schedule between Mother and the child. The circuit court subsequently (1) sentenced Mother to thirty days in jail and two years of probation, (2) directed Mother to register with the state police pursuant to the West Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Registration Act (the Act), and (3) reduced Mother’s temporary visitation schedule with the daughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in requiring Mother to register under the Act; and (2) did not commit reversible error in modifying the temporary visitation schedule established by the family court. View "State v. Kimberly S." on Justia Law
Mark V.H. v. Dolores J.M.
Husband and Wife were married and had a child together. The family court later entered an order granting the parties a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Wife was designated the custodian of the parties' child and Husband was granted parenting time with certain limitations due to Husband's propensity to initiate conflict with other person. The circuit court affirmed most of the family court's rulings, with the exception of the limitations on Husband's visitation with the child, concluding that the family court abused its discretion when it limited Husband's visitation because of potential conflicts with other persons. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order insofar as it expanded Husband's parenting time with the child and remanded with directions to reinstate the family court's order, holding that the family court's limitation of Husband's contact with the child was amply supported by the evidence, and it was an abuse of the circuit court's discretion to overrule the family court's order in this regard. View "Mark V.H. v. Dolores J.M." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Ash v. Circuit Court
Lisa Martin filed a domestic violence petition against Chubby Hoston, who was incarcerated. Attorney Colin Cline was appointed to act as Hoston's guardian ad litem. Based on a statement made by Hoston that Cline delivered at the family court hearing, Hoston was charged with intimidation of and retaliation against a witness. The prosecuting attorney in the criminal matter, Scott Ash, issued a subpoena to Cline seeking his testimony on the statement Hoston directed him to deliver at the family court hearing. The circuit court granted Hoston's motion to prohibit the testimony of Cline in the criminal proceeding, concluding that the communication between Hoston and his guardian was protected by the attorney-client privilege. Ash filed a writ of prohibition to prohibit the circuit court from suppressing the testimony of Cline. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) an attorney-client relationship is formed when a lawyer acts as an incarcerated person's guardian ad litem in a family court proceeding; but (2) when an incarcerated person directs his guardian ad litem to convey a statement to a third party, that statement is not protected by the attorney-client privilege. View "State ex rel. Ash v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law
Amanda A. v. Kevin T.
After Mother and Father separated, the family court filed an order granting Mother permission to change her residence to the state of Georgia and to have primary physical custody of the parties' child. Two years later, Father filed a motion for modification of the parenting plan. After a hearing, the family court ordered a change in the primary residential physical custody of the child, awarding such custody to Father. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion in awarding primary residential custody to Father in this case. View "Amanda A. v. Kevin T." on Justia Law
In re J.C.
The circuit court adjudicated Mother as an abusive and neglectful parent with regard to her child, J.C., on the basis of Mother's drug use, the termination of Mother's parental rights to three other children, the history of domestic violence in Mother's home. After a disposition hearing, the circuit court terminated the parental rights of Mother, concluding that there was no likelihood that the conditions of abuse and neglect had been or could be substantially corrected in the reasonable future. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Mother's request for a post-adjudicatory improvement period or in its termination of Mother's parental rights to J.C. View "In re J.C." on Justia Law
In re Marley M.
The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition against Mother. The basis of the petition was the allegation that Mother intentionally abused two unrelated, non-household member children who were left in her care. At the outset of the adjudication hearing, Mother relinquished her parental rights to Daughter in lieu of proceeding with the hearing. The circuit court accepted the relinquishment and denied Mother's request for post-termination visitation without receiving evidence pertaining to the request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) where during the pendency of an abuse and neglect proceeding, a parent offers to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights and that relinquishment is accepted by the court, the relinquishment may be used as the basis of an order of adjudication of abuse and neglect of that parent of her children; (2) the circuit court erred in failing to enter an order of adjudication; and (3) the circuit court erred in failing to conduct a hearing and receive evidence on the issue of post-termination visitation. View "In re Marley M." on Justia Law
In re Haylea G.
Petitioner in this case was the court-appointed guardian of eight-year-old Haylea. Respondents were Haylea's biological parents (Mother and Father). Upon a petition by Mother, the circuit court terminated the infant guardianship between Petitioner and Haylea and ordered Petitioner to return certain funds paid to her by the Social Security Administration on behalf of Haylea. The court also imposed a monetary sanction for each day the funds were not returned. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court's order insofar as it terminated Petitioner's guardianship of Haylea; but (2) reversed the portion of the order directing the return of funds and imposing a monetary sanction against Petitioner, holding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to order that the funds be returned, and consequently, the monetary penalty was moot. View "In re Haylea G." on Justia Law
Collisi v. Collisi
Wife filed for divorce from Husband. In its decree of divorce and final order, the family court awarded permanent spousal support in the amount of $1,600 per month for Wife, found that Husband was a greater contributor to the breakdown of the marriage than Wife, and required that Husband pay $44,314 in equitable distribution to Wife. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) there was an insufficient factual basis in the record for the Court to determine whether the $1,600 spousal support award was appropriate; and (2) because the family court did not make findings of fact as to the value of the marital interest in the home, the court erred in requiring Husband to pay $44,314 in equitable distribution to Wife. Remanded. View "Collisi v. Collisi" on Justia Law