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CAV: Brief appealing “adoption” goal lacks legal authorities

A mother’s opening brief lacked sufficient principles of law and legal authorities to merit review of the circuit court’s order finding a risk of abuse or neglect and approving the goal of adoption for her child.


Mother and Father, the biological parents of eight children, have a long history of involvement with social services agencies in various states. Mother’s appeal here concerns only the youngest child (the other seven have been removed by other jurisdictions).

After Mother gave birth to her youngest child, the hospital called the Department due to concerns about the parents’ mental health and knowledge that other children had been removed from their care. The baby was removed due to risk of abuse or neglect.

The Department sought the entry of foster care plans with goals of adoption, due to the parents’ loss of rights with respect to their other children. At the hearing, a psychologist who’d evaluated Mother concluded that she was cognitively impaired and extremely limited in all aspects of functioning and was not capable of independently raising a child.

The circuit court found that the child was at risk of abuse or neglect and approved the goal of adoption. This appeal followed.

Briefs on appeal

Mother argues that the Department did not meet its burden to prove that the child was at risk of abuse or neglect and that the circuit court erred in approving a permanency plan for the child with the goal of adoption.

An appellant’s opening brief must include a standard of review and the argument – including principles of law and authorities – relating to each assignment of error. In her brief, Mother cited only Richmond Dep’t of Soc. Servs. v. Carter, 28 Va. App. 494 (1998), which held that the Department must prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. Mother’s assignments of error do not assert that the circuit court applied an erroneous burden of proof.

Because Mother’s opening brief did not contain principles of law or citation to legal authorities, including the governing statutes, to fully develop her arguments, she has not complied with Supreme Court Rule 5A:20(e), and this court will not consider her assignments of error.

Affirmed and remanded for any further action the case may require.

Civis v. Fauquier Cnty. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Record No. 1726-17-4, Aug. 21, 2018. CAV (Annunziata), from Fauquier Cir. Ct. (Parker). Tameka N. Casey for Appellant; Robert F. Beard for Appellee. VLW No. 018-7-218, 6 pp.