County 13-JA-73, 13-JA-74, & 13-JA-75)
Mother R.J. (now R.C.), by counsel Paul R. Sheridan, appeals
the Circuit Court of Mingo County's September 16, 2016,
order denying her an award of child support for six-year-old
I.J.-1, nine-year-old I.J.-2, and ten-year-old
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
("DHHR"), by counsel S.L. Evans, filed its response
in support of petitioner's appeal. The guardian ad litem
("guardian"), Jim Pajarillo, filed a response on
behalf of the children also in support of petitioner's
appeal. On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court
erred in denying child support.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. This case satisfies the
"limited circumstances" requirement of Rule 21(d)
of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and is appropriate for a
memorandum decision rather than an opinion. For the reasons
expressed below, the September 16, 2016, decision of the
circuit court is affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part,
and remanded to the circuit court with directions to
appropriately address child support for I.J.-1, I.J.-2, and
T.J. pursuant to this Court's holding in In re Ryan
B., 224 W.Va. 461, 686 S.E.2d 601 (2009).
October of 2013, the DHHR filed an abuse and neglect petition
against J.J., the children's father, alleging that he
sexually abused children in the home. Several days later, the
DHHR filed an amended petition adding petitioner as a
non-offending parent. Thereafter, the circuit court held a
series of adjudicatory hearings during which it heard
testimony from multiple individuals. After considering the
parties' arguments, the circuit court found that J.J.
"committed sexually inappropriate acts against" a
child. As such, the circuit court adjudicated J.J. as an
abusive and neglectful parent.
2016, the circuit court held a status hearing during which
J.J. indicated his willingness to voluntarily relinquish his
parental rights to the children. As such, by order entered on
September 16, 2016, the circuit court accepted J.J.'s
voluntarily relinquishment, and terminated his parental
rights to the children. However, the circuit court denied
petitioner's motion for child support without
explanation. This appeal followed.
The Court has previously established the following standard
"Although conclusions of law reached by a circuit court
are subject to de novo review, when an action, such
as an abuse and neglect case, is tried upon the facts without
a jury, the circuit court shall make a determination based
upon the evidence and shall make findings of fact and
conclusions of law as to whether such child is abused or
neglected. These findings shall not be set aside by a
reviewing court unless clearly erroneous. A finding is
clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support
the finding, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed. However, a reviewing court may not overturn a
finding simply because it would have decided the case
differently, and it must affirm a finding if the circuit
court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of
the record viewed in its entirety." Syl. Pt. 1, In
Interest of Tiffany Marie S., 196 W.Va. 223, 470 S.E.2d
Syl. Pt. 1, In re Cecil T., 228 W.Va. 89, 717 S.E.2d
873 (2011). On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit
court failed to order J.J. to pay child support.
regard to child support, this Court has held that,
[a] circuit court terminating a parent's parental rights
pursuant to W.Va. Code, § 49-6-5(a)(6) [now
West Virginia Code § 49-4-604], must ordinarily require
that the terminated parent continue paying child support for
the child, pursuant to the Guidelines for Child Support
Awards found in W.Va. Code, § 48- 13-101,
et seq. . If the circuit court finds, in a rare
instance, that it is not in the child's best interest to
order the parent to pay child support pursuant to the
Guidelines in a specific case, it may disregard the
Guidelines to accommodate the needs of the child if
the court makes that finding on the record and explains its
reasons for deviating from the Guidelines pursuant
to W.Va. Code, § 48-13-702, .
In re Ryan B., at 462, 686 S.E.2d at 602-03, Syl.
Pt. 2. Importantly, "[t]his holding is applicable to
both voluntary and involuntary terminations.
(emphasis added) Id. at 469, 686 S.E.2d at 605, n.3.
In this case, the record is clear that J.J voluntarily
relinquished his parental rights to his children. As such, he
may be required to pay child support absent the "rare
instance" that such payment is not in the
child[ren]'s interests." The record on appeal is
devoid of any testimony or evidence showing any "rare
instance" with regard to the child support guidelines.
Upon our review, the Court finds that the circuit court
failed to adequately address whether J.J. was required to
provide child support for the children. For these reasons, we
reverse and remand with directions for the circuit court to
address the issue of child support, in accordance with this
Court's holding as set forth in Syllabus Point two of
In re Ryan B., Id.
foregoing reasons, we affirm the circuit court's
September 9, 2016, order in which the circuit court accepted
J.J.'s voluntary relinquishment of his parental rights to
the children. However, this Court reverses the circuit
court's order, in part, with regard to the denial of
child support, and remands the case with instructions to
address child support, in accordance with our holding as set
forth in Syllabus Point Two of In re Ryan B., Id.
in part, and reversed and remanded, in part, with directions.
CONCURRED IN BY:Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II Justice
Robin Jean Davis Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Menis ...