Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - West Virginia

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 49-4-605; 49-4-604

The Department of Health and Human Resources shall file, join in a petition, or otherwise seek a ruling in any pending proceeding to terminate parental rights if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months.

The court shall terminate the parental rights of an abusing parent when any of the following apply:

  • The child has been abandoned, tortured, sexually abused, or chronically abused.
  • The parent has done any of the following:
    • Committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child's other parent, another child of the parent, or any other child residing in the same household
    • Attempted or conspired to commit such a murder or voluntary manslaughter
    • Committed a malicious wounding that results in serious bodily injury to the child, the child's other parent, or any other child residing in the same household
    • Committed sexual assault or sexual abuse of the child, the child's other parent, guardian, or custodian, another child of the parent, or any other child residing in the same household
  • The parental rights of the parent to another child have been terminated involuntarily.
  • A parent whose child has been removed from the parent's care, custody, and control by an order of removal voluntarily fails to have contact or attempt to have contact with the child for 18 consecutive months. Failure to have or attempt to have contact due to being incarcerated, in a medical or drug treatment or recovery facility, or on active military duty shall not be considered voluntary behavior.
  • A parent has been required by State or Federal law to register with a sex offender registry, and the court has determined in consideration of the nature and circumstances surrounding the prior charges against that parent that the child's interests would not be promoted by a preservation of the family.
  • The abusing parent has habitually abused or is addicted to alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs to the extent that proper parenting skills have been seriously impaired and such person or persons have not responded to or followed through the recommended and appropriate treatment.
  • The abusing parent has willfully refused to cooperate in the development of a reasonable family case plan designed to lead to the child's return to their care, custody, and control.
  • The abusing parent has not responded to or followed through with a reasonable family case plan designed to reduce or prevent the abuse or neglect of the child.
  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The parent has repeatedly or seriously injured the child physically or emotionally or has sexually abused or sexually exploited the child.
  • The abusing parent has not responded to or followed through with a reasonable family case plan or other rehabilitative efforts of social, medical, mental health, or other rehabilitative agencies designed to reduce or prevent the abuse or neglect of the child, as evidenced by the continuation or insubstantial diminution of conditions that threatened the health, welfare, or life of the child.
  • A battered parent's parenting skills have been seriously impaired, and he or she has willfully refused or is presently unwilling or unable to cooperate in the development of a reasonable treatment plan or has not adequately responded to or followed through with the recommended and appropriate treatment plan.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-4-605

The department may determine not to file a petition to terminate parental rights when the following apply:

  • At the option of the department, the child has been placed permanently with a relative.
  • The department has documented in the case plan a compelling reason, including, but not limited to, the child's age and preference regarding termination or the child's placement in custody of the department based on another proceeding, that filing the petition would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • The department has not provided, when reasonable efforts to return a child to the family are required, the services to the child's family that the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to the home.

The court may not terminate the parental rights of a parent on the sole basis that the parent is participating in a medication-assisted treatment program for substance use disorder, as long as the parent is successfully fulfilling his or her treatment obligations in the medication-assisted treatment program.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-4-606

If the child is removed or relinquished from an adoptive home or other permanent placement after the case has been dismissed, any party with notice thereof and the receiving agency shall promptly report the matter to the circuit court of origin, the department, and the child's counsel, and the court shall schedule a permanency hearing within 60 days, with notice given to any appropriate parties and persons entitled to notice and the right to be heard. The department shall convene a multidisciplinary treatment team meeting within 30 days of the receipt of notice of permanent placement disruption.

If a child has not been adopted, the child or department may petition the court to place the child with a parent or custodian whose rights have been terminated and/or restore the parent's or guardian's rights. Under these circumstances, the court may order the placement and/or restoration of a parent's or guardian's rights if it finds by clear and convincing evidence a material change of circumstances and that the placement and/or restoration is in the child's best interests.