Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court awarding guardianship of A.C., a twelve-year-old girl, to A.C.’s grandmother, A.H. Petitioner, A.C., through her guardian ad litem, objected to the guardianship award and subsequently appealed, arguing that the circuit court’s award of guardianship to the grandmother was not in the child’s best interests and failed to include an appropriate evaluation of the Guardianship Screening Factors enumerated in Rule 10 of the West Virginia Rules of Practice and Procedure for Minor Guardianship Proceedings. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that the Guardianship Screening Factors, when applied to the facts of this case, indicated that the grandmother was not a viable candidate to serve as guardian to A.C. The court remanded the matter for entry of an order awarding guardianship to E.B., the godmother of A.C. View "In re Guardianship of A.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A parent who had court-appointed counsel in an abuse and neglect proceeding was not entitled to representation by court-appointed counsel once the abuse and neglect proceeding was dismissed and further action was brought in a domestic relations case. The Supreme Court held that, in this case, the circuit court correctly determined that because it had dismissed the abuse and neglect proceeding, Father was no longer entitled to court-appointed counsel to resolve a motion for custody, as the proceeding was a domestic relations case. The court, however, reversed the circuit court’s decision to continue the appointment of the guardian ad litem for the children in the domestic relations proceeding, holding (1) pursuant to Rule 47 of the West Virginia Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court, courts shall not routinely assign guardians ad litem for children in a domestic relations case but, rather, shall appoint a guardian ad litem only where the court is presented with substantial allegations of domestic abuse or other serious issues; and (2) in this case, the circuit court’s appointment of the guardian ad litem in the domestic relations proceeding was in error. View "In re Interest of Z.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In an appeal from a divorce action Wife argued that the circuit court abused its discretion with regard to a permanent spousal support award of $4,000 per month and challenged the circuit court’s equitable distribution findings, specifically, classification of certain retirement accounts of Husband as premarital and classification of certain expenditures Husband made as marital expenses. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order with regard to the equitable distribution findings with the exception of the finding on Husband’s premarital portion of his retirement account, holding the evidence showed $249,685 of that account was premarital; and (2) reversed the award of spousal support, holding that Wife was “harshly short-changed, considering the great disparity of the parties’ income.” View "Mulugeta v. Misailidis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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When a child is born alive, the presence of illegal drugs in the child’s system at birth constitutes sufficient evidence that the child is an abused and/or neglected child, as those terms are defined by W. Va. Code 49-1-201, to support the filing of an abuse and neglect petition pursuant to W. Va. Code 49-4-601 The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources filed an abuse and neglect petition against Father alleging that Child was an abused and/or neglected child. The allegations of Father’s misconduct included his failure to protect Child from Mother’s drug use - both prenatal and ongoing after Child’s birth - and his continuing association with Mother. Father filed a motion to dismiss the petition claiming that because an abuse and neglect proceeding could not be brought to protect a child who has not yet been born, a parent could not be charged with injuries in utero. The circuit court agreed to certify a question to the Supreme Court insofar as it was deemed to be determinative of Father’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court answered the question as reformulated. View "In re A.L.C.M." on Justia Law

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Seven entities under contract to provide residential services to youth in the state (collectively, Petitioners) filed a petition for writ of mandamus requiring the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR), its Cabinet Secretary, the West Virginia Bureau for Medical Services (BMS), its Acting Commissioner, the Bureau for Children and Families (BCF), and its Commissioner (collectively, Respondents) to promulgate new or amended legislative rules prior to implementing changes to existing residential child care services policies. The Supreme Court granted a writ as moulded, finding it most appropriate to order this matter to be docketed in this circuit court as if it were an original proceeding in mandamus in that court. Remanded for further proceedings. View "State ex rel. Pressley Ridge v. W. Va. Department of Health & Human Resources" on Justia Law

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Husband and Wife were granted a divorce by order of the family court in 2014. The circuit court affirmed the family court’s orders. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) classifying certain property as marital property; (2) calculating Husband’s gambling losses; (3) denying Husband credit for payments Husband made during the parties’ separation; (4) ordering Husband to pay one-half of the attorney’s fees incurred by Wife; (5) calculating amounts due to Wife on one of the marital assets; and (6) failing to award Wife a cash sum to equalize the distribution of marital assets. View "P.A. v. T.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Mother and Father were the biological parents of D.M. D.M. was removed from Mother and Father and placed in the custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (the DHHR). After a dispositional hearing, the circuit court entered a final order finding D.M. to be an abused and neglected child and terminating the parental rights of both Mother and Father. The court denied Mother’s and Father’s motions for a post-adjudicatory improvement period and ordered that custody of D.M. will remain with the DHHR. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in determining that D.M. was an abused and neglected child and that there was no reasonable likelihood that the conditions of neglect or abuse could be substantially corrected in the near future; and (2) properly determined that neither Mother nor Father established a likelihood of full participation in a post-adjudicatory improvement period. View "In re D.M." on Justia Law

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S.H. was adjudicated to have been neglected by her maternal grandmother and guardian, M.C. M.C. was granted an improvement period, but the improvement period was abruptly terminated by the court’s order, and M.C.’s guardianship of S.H. was subsequently terminated. The court affirmed the determination that S.H. was a neglected child, finding no error as to that conclusion. However, the court concluded that termination of M.C.’s improvement period was erroneous because M.C. was in full compliance with the terms and conditions of her improvement period. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions. View "In Re: S.H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The parties were divorced in 2012. The original order provided that, for tax exemption purposes, the father would claim Child B. and the mother would claim Child C. In 2014, mother sought modification of child support and medical support and requested an order providing that when one of the children reaches the age of majority, the remaining exemption should be rotated between the parents annually. Father requested the court to amend the order to include details of a joint parenting plan and to allocate the tax exemptions according to West Virginia Code 48-13-801.3, which requires that tax exemptions be proportioned between the parents according to income. After a remand from the circuit court, the family court clarified that the parties had agreed to “equal custodial allocation” and that the father had requested re-allocation of the tax exemptions only if no agreement was reached and observed: “It did not appear that the [mother’s] income and child support would be greater if the payor was awarded the exemption.” The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed, stating that the oral agreement regarding custodial allocation and other tangential issues did not eliminate the need to allocate the exemptions according to the statutory requirements, and remanded for financial analysis under the statute. View "Eric M. v. Laura M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law, Tax Law

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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed a petition alleging abuse and neglect against Father. After an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court dismissed the abuse and neglect petition, concluding that DHHR failed to meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that Father was abusive. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court’s dismissal of the abuse and neglect petition was clear error because the DHHR presented clear and convincing evidence that Father showed a sexually explicit video to two of his children and engaged in some sort of sexual conduct with one child. View "In re C.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law