Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., No. 22507

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtMILLER
Citation194 W.Va. 138,459 S.E.2d 415
PartiesCHRYSTAL R.M., Plaintiff Below, Appellant v. CHARLIE A.L., Defendant Below, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 22507
Decision Date21 June 1995

Page 415

459 S.E.2d 415
194 W.Va. 138
CHRYSTAL R.M., Plaintiff Below, Appellant
v.
CHARLIE A.L., Defendant Below, Appellee.
No. 22507.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted May 3, 1995.
Decided June 21, 1995.

Page 416

[194 W.Va. 139] Syllabus by the Court

1. Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review.

2. "Statutes relating to different subjects are not in pari materia. Syllabus point 5, Commercial Credit Corp. v. Citizens National Bank, 148 W.Va. 198, 133 S.E.2d 720 (1963)." Syllabus point 1, Atchinson v. Erwin, 172 W.Va. 8, 302 S.E.2d 78 (1983).

3. Statements by the natural mother in an adoption agreement that the adoptive father acknowledges paternity, when the adoption agreement is subsequently not consummated, does not constitute an acknowledgement

Page 417

[194 W.Va. 140] of paternity under W.Va.Code, 48A-6-6(b) (1990). Therefore, such statements do not bar a proceeding on her part against the actual biological father to establish paternity.

4. "Under W.Va.Code, 48A-6-3 (1992), undisputed blood or tissue test results indicating a statistical probability of paternity of more than ninety-eight percent are conclusive on the issue of paternity, and the circuit court should enter judgment accordingly." Syllabus point 5, Mildred L.M. v. John O.F., 192 W.Va. 345, 452 S.E.2d 436 (1994).

Richard A. Bush, Bush & Trippel, Parkersburg, for appellant.

Jan Dils Hughes, Parkersburg, for appellee.

MILLER, Justice:

In this appeal, we are asked to determine whether language by the mother in a written prenatal adoption agreement stating that the adoptive father is the natural father should prevail over blood tests that prove a third person, the appellee, Charlie A.L., is the biological father. 1 By agreement dated January 8, 1990, the appellant, Chrystal R.M., consented to allow Mr. and Mrs. Ruble to adopt her child. In the agreement, the appellant stated that she "hereby acknowledges that Gregory Emmitt Ruble, ... is the natural father of said child and agrees to place his name on the initial birth certificate and necessary hospital records at the time of her admission for the birth of the child." 2 The adoption was never consummated.

In June of 1991, the appellant filed suit against the appellee asserting that he was the biological father, and seeking child support, reimbursement of birth expenses, and attorney fees. 3 The family law master eventually ordered blood tests to determine the paternity issue. They revealed that Mr. Ruble was not the biological father and that there was a 99.94% probability that the appellee, Charles A.L., was the biological father.

The appellee defended against the paternity action by asserting that the signed and notarized adoption agreement between Mr. and Mrs. Ruble and Chrystal R.M., stating that Mr. Ruble was the father, met the requirements of W.Va.Code, 48A-6-6(b) (1990) which states:

A written acknowledgment by both the man and woman that the man is the father of the named child legally establishes the man as the father of the child for all purposes and child support can be established under the provisions of this chapter.

The family law master concluded that this section was designed to establish paternity where the mother and the putative father acknowledged his paternity, but was not meant to cover adoption agreements. On review, the circuit court determined that the language in the adoption agreement met the requirements of W.Va.Code, 48A-6-6(b) (1990). This appeal clearly presents a question of law involving an interpretation of a statute. Accordingly, we apply the de novo standard of review as set out in syllabus point 1, in part, of Burnside v. Burnside, (No. 22399, March 24, 1995) which states that "questions of law and statutory interpretations are subject to a de novo review." 4

Page 418

[194 W.Va. 141] Initially, the appellant argues that the applicable language in the adoption agreement is void and unenforceable citing Wyatt v. Wyatt, 185 W.Va. 472, 475, 408 S.E.2d 51, 54 (1991). There we said that "[t]he duty of a parent to support a child is a basic duty owed by the parent to the child, and a parent cannot waive or contract away the child's right to support." We do not find Wyatt to be applicable simply because the contract for adoption was not consummated. Consequently, the mother neither waived nor contracted away the child's right to support.

We disagree with the legal basis of the circuit court's opinion that under W.Va.Code, 48A-6-6(b) (1990), there had been a formal acknowledgment of paternity. We do not believe that this subsection has some talismanic meaning that requires us to abandon both our logic and common sense. From a purely technical viewpoint, it can be said that the...

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653 practice notes
  • STATE EX REL. WV v. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, No. 31125.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 16, 2003
    ...of statutes and rules, are primarily questions of law, we apply a de novo review"); Syl. Pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995) ("Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute,......
  • Coleman v. Sopher, No. 23943.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1997
    ...qualified immunity.2 This error presents a question of law which we will review de novo. See Syl. pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995) ("Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a......
  • In re Abbigail Faye B., No. 33716.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 23, 2008
    ...law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review." Syllabus point 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 3. "The primary object in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature." Syllabus ......
  • Gazette v. Smithers, No. 12–0811.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 26, 2013
    ...of law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review.” Syl. Pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995). 3. “The disclosure provisions of this State's Freedom of Information Act, W. Va.Code, 29B–1–1 et seq., as amended, are......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
653 cases
  • STATE EX REL. WV v. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, No. 31125.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 16, 2003
    ...of statutes and rules, are primarily questions of law, we apply a de novo review"); Syl. Pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995) ("Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute,......
  • Coleman v. Sopher, No. 23943.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1997
    ...qualified immunity.2 This error presents a question of law which we will review de novo. See Syl. pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995) ("Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a......
  • In re Abbigail Faye B., No. 33716.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 23, 2008
    ...law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review." Syllabus point 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 3. "The primary object in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature." Syllabus ......
  • Gazette v. Smithers, No. 12–0811.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 26, 2013
    ...of law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review.” Syl. Pt. 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995). 3. “The disclosure provisions of this State's Freedom of Information Act, W. Va.Code, 29B–1–1 et seq., as amended, are......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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