Parental rights in West Virginia may be terminated after the filing of an Abuse or Neglect Petition. State law governs the criteria for parental rights termination and the actual case decisions are made by a circuit court judge. Abandonment is one of several reasons that parental rights may be terminated in West Virginia, and parental rights may be terminated involuntarily or with the natural parents’ consent.
What Consitutes Abandonment?
A child over six months old is presumed abandoned when her birth parent does not financially support the child and fails to stay in contact with her. A child under six months old is presumed abandoned by the birth father when: the alleged birth father (1) denies paternity, (2) does not contribute financially to the prenatal and postnatal care of the mother and postnatal care of the child, (3) does not provide financial support for the child, and (4) does not visit the child.
Filing of Abuse or Neglect Petition
An Abuse or Neglect Petition must be filed before the court will consider termination of parental rights for child abandonment. A petition can be filed by the state Department of Health & Human Resources or by any individual. The petition needs to be sworn and state when the parent last visited or had contact with the child and the amount and frequency of any financial support. Once filed, a hearing by the circuit court will be scheduled. Before the hearing takes place, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the child.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
A court may decide to terminate parental rights for child abandonment only if it finds that reunification with the parent is not in the best interest of the child. If the court terminates a birth parent's rights, it is almost impossible for him to regain these rights.
Consensual Termination of Parental Rights
To voluntarily terminate parental rights, the parent(s) must sign a consent stating the person executing it does so of his or her own free will and the consent will never be revoked. One natural parent may consent to terminate parental rights in favor of the other. The judge will hold a hearing to determine if the consent was signed voluntarily.