Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order terminating Mother’s custodial rights but leaving intact her parental rights, holding that the circuit court’s account of the evidence was plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety. Father was granted sole custody of the minor child in this case. Thereafter, the circuit court terminated the custodial rights of Mother but left intact Mother’s parental rights to the child. On appeal, Father argued that Mother’s parental rights should have been terminated based on the circuit court’s factual findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no reason to disturb the circuit court’s dispositional ruling. View "In re B.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order terminating Petitioner’s parental rights to his three minor children despite concluding three months earlier that Petitioner had not abused or neglected them, holding that the circuit court erred by terminating Petitioner’s parental rights without first adjudicating him as an abusive or neglectful parent. Petitioner was serving a prison sentence for first-degree and was not eligible for parole until 2029. In 2018, the circuit court concluded that, although it explicitly found that Petitioner had not abandoned his children at the earlier adjudicatory hearing, the children’s best interests required termination of Petitioner’s parental rights. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment, holding that where the circuit court impermissibly terminated Petitioner’s parental rights without first adjudicating him an abusive or neglectful parent, the circuit court lacked the jurisdiction to enter those portions of its order purporting to terminate Petitioner’s parental rights. View "In re A.P.-1" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court terminating Father’s parental rights to his daughter, A.N., when he was otherwise deemed a fit parent suitable to care for his son, C.N., holding that there was plain error in the circuit court’s decision to return C.N. to Father’s care, custody, and control. On appeal, Father argued that the circuit court erred by terminating his parental rights to A.N. because he was otherwise found to be a fit parent through reunification with C.N. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court’s order terminating Father’s parental rights to A.N. but not to C.N. contained critical inconsistencies between specific factual findings and the dispositions ordered. While the circuit court did not err in deciding to terminate Father’s parental rights to A.N., the circuit court was lacking important evidence necessary for determining Father’s parental fitness to parent C.N. View "In re A.N." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Foster Parents and remanded this case with directions to the circuit court to vacate its order granting Biological Parents post-dispositional improvement periods in excess of statutory time limitations, to grant Foster Parents’ motion to intervene, and to schedule this matter for disposition. After eight weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, J.L. was placed into foster care with Foster Parents. Biological Parents admitted to abuse and neglect, and a post-adjudicatory improvement period was ordered for each. Foster Parents moved to intervene, but the circuit court denied the motion. Upon the request of the guardian ad litem to revoke Biological Parents’ improvement periods, the circuit court awarded a six-month post-dispositional improvement period to Biological Parents. The Supreme Court granted Foster Parents’ requested writ of prohibition, holding (1) Foster Parents were absolutely entitled to participate in all court proceedings by virtue of W. Va. 49-4-601(h); (2) foster parents are entitled to intervention as a matter of right when the time limitations contained in W. Va. Code 49-4-605(b) and/or 49-4-610(b) are implicated; and (3) upon issuance of the writ, the circuit court is directed to schedule this matter for disposition at its earliest opportunity. View "State ex rel. C.H. v. Honorable Laura V. Faircloth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue in this proceeding was whether, when an infant who is born alive but dies during the pendency of an abuse and neglect proceeding and the infant is the only child in the home, the matter may proceed to an adjudicatory hearing and the deceased child be found and adjudicated to be an abused or neglected child. Here an infant child was born with opiates in its system as a result of Mother’s prenatal drug use. The infant was treated for severe neurological and respiratory conditions based on a diagnosis of drug-affected birth. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed a petition against Mother and Father, alleging that the infant was a neglected and abused child. After the circuit court transferred temporary custody of the infant to the DHHR, the infant died. The parents moved to dismiss the abuse and neglect case based on the infant’s death. The court refused to dismiss the case but certified questions for the Supreme Court’s resolution. The Court answered the first question as set forth above. The Court further answered that, under the circumstances of this case, the guardian ad litem should remain a party to the proceeding to advocate for the rights of the deceased child. View "In re I.M.K." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners, the foster and designated preadoptive parents of the minor child T.C., to prevent the enforcement of an order of the circuit court granting visitation with T.C. to Respondents, who were the child’s paternal grandmother and paternal aunt. In this ongoing abuse and neglect proceeding, the circuit court ordered that Respondents would receive supervised visitation with T.C. The court recognized Petitioners as persons entitled to notice but refused to stop Respondents’ visitation. Petitioners then filed the instant petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that because Petitioners were not afforded the requisite notice and meaningful opportunity to be heard prior to the circuit court granting visitation to Respondents, the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers and committed clear error as a matter of law. View "State ex rel. H.S. v. Honorable J.D. Beane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court vacated for want of subject-matter jurisdiction a family court order granting permanent guardianship of three children to their maternal grandparents. This case was originally removed to family court to circuit court because the preceding petition for temporary guardianship was based on allegations of abuse and neglect. However, contrary to the Rules of Practice and Procedure of Minor Guardianship Proceedings and the Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court, the circuit court remanded this case back to family court to proceed as a guardianship case rather than an abuse and neglect case. The Supreme Court held that because the allegations of abuse and neglect were substantiated, the circuit court erred in concluding that a then-temporary guardianship order negated the need for the abuse and neglect petition and therefore erred in remanding the matter to family court. View "In re Guardianship of K.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this appeal from the circuit court’s reversal of a permanent alimony award, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court and remanded the case for reinstatement of the family court’s order awarding Wife permanent alimony in the amount of $1,500 per month, holding that the circuit court’s overturning of the family court’s findings was in error. The family court ordered Husband to pay permanent alimony to Wife in the amount of $1,500 per month. The circuit court reversed the award and remanded to the family court for calculation of spousal support “in accordance” with its order. On remand, the family court ordered Husband to pay Wife $439.02 per month. The circuit court refused Wife’s appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in overturning the family court’s findings and inexplicably replaced the family court’s credibility determinations with determinations of its own. View "Cowger v. Cowger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The circuit court erred in applying the grandparent preference contained in W. Va. Code 49-4-114(a)(3) when it permanently selected the grandparents of twins K.E. and K.E. for permanent placement. The twins were in foster care when the circuit court terminated the parental rights of their biological parents. Both the twins’ foster parents and their paternal grandparents sought to provide the twins with a permanent home. The circuit court ruled that the twins should be permanently placed with their grandparents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the best interest of the twins were best served by permanent placement with their foster parents, not their grandparents. View "In re K.E." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The circuit court erred in applying the grandparent preference contained in W. Va. Code 49-4-114(a)(3) when it permanently selected the grandparents of twins K.E. and K.E. for permanent placement. The twins were in foster care when the circuit court terminated the parental rights of their biological parents. Both the twins’ foster parents and their paternal grandparents sought to provide the twins with a permanent home. The circuit court ruled that the twins should be permanently placed with their grandparents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the best interest of the twins were best served by permanent placement with their foster parents, not their grandparents. View "In re K.E." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law