With parental rights voided, man not subject to child support payments

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 4, 2013

PARKERSBURG – A circuit judge has ruled a Wood County family law judge erred in ordering a Parkersburg man to support a child who’s no longer his.

Judge J.D. Beane on Jan. 22 granted Larry Ryan’s writ of prohibition against Judge Brian C. Dempster. In his writ, Ryan argued Dempster usurped his authority by making him pay child support for a daughter from whom the state severed his parental rights two years ago.

According to Ryan’s petition, his ex-wife, Destiny, initiated divorce proceedings against him in 2010. The reasons for the divorce are not stated.

A year later, the state Department of Health and Human Resources initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Ryan regarding the welfare of his daughter, Grace. Though it is unclear the specific reasons for DHHR’s actions, the petition says Senior Status Cabell Circuit Judge John Cummings on March 29 terminated Ryan’s parental rights.

No reason is given why Cummings was appointed to the case. Nevertheless, the petition states Cummings’ order also relieved Ryan of his obligation to pay Destiny child support.

Following a hearing on May 29, Dempster on June 12 finalized the Ryans’ divorce and “imposed a child support obligation” on Larry. The amount is not specified.

On a date not specified, Destiny petitioned to hold Larry in contempt for failing to pay child support. Dempster on Sept. 11 ordered Larry to appear on a date not specified to answer Destiny’s contempt petition.

In his writ, Larry averred that Destiny was aware of Cummings’ March 29 order, but failed to appeal it. As such, he argued the “Wood County Family Court exceeded its legal and lawful jurisdiction by imposing a child support obligation in its Order June 12, 2012,” and allowing enforcement of the that order “is tantamount to permitting the Wood County Family Court to overrule the Wood County Circuit Court, which would be clearly improper given that the Family Court answers to the circuit court and not vice versa.”

In his order granting Ryan’s writ, Beane provided no commentary. However, he made clear the writ only prohibited enforcement any child support payments, and instructed DHHR to amend its records reflecting that.

Larry was represented by Michelle Rusen with the Parkersburg law firm of Rusen and Auvil while Parkersburg attorney George Y. Chandler II represented Destiny.

Wood Circuit Court case number 12-P-155

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