By Rob Hagy, Law Offices of Rob Hagy, P.C., 154 Hansen Road, Suite 202B, Charlottesville, Virginia. Call (434)293-4562 for more information or email for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to helping you!
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In the case of White v. Petersburg Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, ruled that evidence was sufficient to prove termination of father’s parental rights was in child’s best interests without consideration of his alleged sexual misconduct, his refusal to participate in psychosexual evaluation or his assertion of his right to remain silent during the proceedings. The father had not provided DSS with verification of employment or housing, he had not participated in parenting classes, and he had not paid child support or visited the children. He has tested positive for drug use in the recent past as well.
In the case of Kilby v. Culpeper County Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, ruled in a published opinion, that a father's parental rights were properly terminated. The termination was in the child's best interests where father failed to protect child from sexual assault resulting in internal injuries and was criminally convicted for failing to do so. The conviction pursuant to Virginia Code Section 40.1-103 is a felony assault for purposes of the application of Code § 16.1-283(E)(iii).
In the case of Perez-Velasquez v. Culpeper County Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, ruled that the trial court did not err in terminating father’s parental rights pursuant to Code Section 16.1-283(C), determining that the DSS included father in the development of the foster care plan, holding that DSS gave father sufficient notice, finding that father failed to maintain contact with the children, and determining father did not substantially plan for the future of the children.
In the case of Messiah v. Alexandria Department of Human Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, ruled that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony from a social worker where the content of the challenged statements were admitted in exhibits or other testimony during the hearing. Further, there was sufficient evidence to support termination of father's parental rights and approval of the foster care plan.
The trial court terminated father’s parental rights under Code § 16.1-283(C)(2). That section provides that termination is warranted if clear and convincing evidence establishes it is in the best interests of the child and that [t]he parent or parents, without good cause, have been unwilling or unable within a reasonable period of time not to exceed twelve months from the date the child was placed in foster care to remedy substantially the conditions which led to or required continuation of the child’s foster care placement, notwithstanding the reasonable and appropriate efforts of social, medical, mental health or other rehabilitative agencies to such end.
Father does not argue that he substantially corrected or eliminated the conditions which led to the child’s placement. He merely contends that he "pursued numerous services independent of Alexandria DHS."
At the time of the hearing, the child was two years old and had been either in the care of his grandparents or foster care for most of his life. Not only had father failed to secure stable housing or employment during that time, he had refused mental health therapy or medication despite the knowledge he suffered from bipolar disorder and anger management issues. In addition, father had been incarcerated for several months after being convicted for drug distribution. While father’s incarceration, per se, did not warrant the termination of his parental rights, it was "a valid and proper circumstance" the trial court could consider in deciding whether termination was in the child's best interests. Furthermore, from the time father was incarcerated in November 2007 until the termination hearing in June 2008, he saw the child on only three occasions.
In the case of Mabe v. Wythe County Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in a published opinion, ruled that the trial court erred in refusing to grant a mother's request for a continuance for a period of time sufficient to allow her to attend the hearing. Mother was a federally incarcerated prisoner and required transport to attend the hearing.
In the case of Adams v. Richmond Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublishd opinion, ruled the the trial court properly terminated mother's parental rights to her child where evidence proved reasonable diligence was exercised in investigating five family members with whom to place child prior to termination of her rights and evidence proved appellant was unable to remedy conditions leading to placement of child with social services within a reasonable time.
In the case of Bowman v. Roanoke Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, ruled that the trial court correctly terminated a mother's parental rights where child had profound mental issues and mother also had mental health issues in addition to suffering from mild mental retardation and had made no progress towards improving her parenting skills despite being offered numerous services by the DSS.
In the case of Napper v. Petersburg Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion ruled that a mother's parental rights were properly terminated and that the Department of Social Services was not required to provide the mother rehabilitative services where, given the depth and breadth of the challenges she faced, it was unlikely that the conditions which led to the abuse and neglect could be remedied. Rehabilitation services are not a prerequisite to termination.
In the case of McDonald v. the Henrico County Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, ruled that the trial court correctly terminated the parental rights of a father who was incarcerated for part of the child's time in foster care where clear and convincing evidence proved appellant failed to maintain contact with or substantially plan for the future of the child.
Code § 16.1-283(C)(1) requires proof, by clear and convincing evidence that:
The parent or parents have, without good cause, failed to maintain continuing contact with and to provide or substantially plan for the future of the child for a period of six months after the child’s placement in foster care notwithstanding the reasonable and appropriate efforts of social, medical, mental health or other rehabilitative agencies to communicate with the parent or parents and to strengthen the parent-child relationship. Proof that the parent or parents have failed without good cause to communicate on a continuing and planned basis with the child for a period of six months shall constitute prima facie evidence of this condition.
[W]hile long-term incarceration does not, per se, authorize termination of parental rights or negate the Department’s obligation to provide services, it is a valid and proper circumstance which, when combined with other evidence concerning the parent/child relationship, can support a court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child will be served by termination.
In this case, father wrote child a few times, but stopped, failed to maintain phone contact with the child or with the DSS and failed to provide them any meaningful plan for how he would raise the child once released.
The father also argued that the DSS never provided him services to strengthen his relationship with his son. Code § 16.1-283(C)(1) required DSS to prove that it made "reasonable and appropriate" efforts to communicate with the father and strengthen his relationship with the child. What constitutes "reasonable and appropriate" efforts can only be judged with reference to the circumstances of a particular case. In this case, the DSS had letter and phone contact with father, but father discontinued the contact, and will not be released from jail until 2013, which combined with the child's special needs, supports a finding that the DSS used reasonable and appropriate efforts.
In the case of Staples v. Chesapeake Department of Social Services, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in an published opinion, affirmed a trial court's decision terminating of mother’s parental rights to her child where question of whether trial court erred in considering petition for termination because petition did not specify which subsection of Code § 16.1-283 appellee was proceeding under barred by Rule 5A:18 and because the evidence was sufficient to support termination.
At trial, mother never raised her claim that the court erred by considering the petition for termination because the petition did not specify under which subsection of Code § 16.1-283 DHS was proceeding. This violates the well known procedural rule, 5A:18, that the Court of Appeals will not consider an argument on appeal which was not presented to the trial court.
In addition, the evidence supporting termination in this case was overwhelming. The mother had a serious cocaine addiction which prevented her from caring for the child.
Virginia Code Section 20-108.2 This provision of Virginia law sets forth the child support guidelines-a table of reference for determining the base monthly child support obligation.
Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 This statute sets forth the factors that a court will consider in divorce proceedings, temporary proceedings, or modification proceedings to determine what custody and visitation arrangement would be best for the child or children involved.