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Potential Caregivers Not ‘Relatives’

A woman whose child was removed from her custody cannot proffer as “relatives” a couple whose daughter was the girlfriend of the woman’s brother; the Court of Appeals says such a tenuous connection does not make the couple “relatives” of the child.

On appeal, the mother argues the trial court erred by terminating her parental rights because the department of social services failed to consider granting custody of her child to the couple. We need not address the adequacy of DSS’s investigation because we hold the couple are not relatives of the child as a matter of law.

Under common law, a relative means someone related by consanguinity or affinity. Consanguinity is a “relation by blood.” Affinity, on the other hand, is relation of one spouse to the other spouse’s kindred. To this common law definition of relative, Virginia statutes add children legally adopted.

In the trial court, the mother claimed her brother was the boyfriend of the couple’s daughter. Whether true or not, this tenuous connection does not make the couple relatives of the mother’s child. They share no common ancestor and thus are not related by blood – a point the mother conceded at trial. Nor are they related by marriage or adoption. Lacking any relationship by consanguinity affinity or adoption with the child, the couple cannot be the child’s “relatives” under Va. Code § 16.1-283(A) and, all the more, cannot qualify as “immediate relatives” under our interpretation of the statute.
The trial court did not err in rejecting DSS’s petition for termination of parental rights.

Judgment affirmed.

Bagley v. City of Richmond Dep’t of Soc. Servs. (Kelsey) No. 1251-11-2, Jan. 31, 2012; Richmond Cir.Ct. (Markow) Charles R. Samuels for appellant; Ramona L. Taylor, Ass’t City Att’y, for appellee. VLW 012-7-026, 4 pp.

VLW 012-7-026

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