Judge Joyce D. Chernenko
First Family Court Circuit (Brooke, Hancock, and Ohio Counties)
Judge Joyce Dumbaugh Chernenko was born and raised in Weirton and graduated from Weir Senior High School in 1974. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1978 from Bethany College, where she graduated magna cum laude and received an award of Distinction on her Comprehensive Examinations. She has a 1981 law degree from West Virginia University College of Law, where she was a member of the College of Law’s Moot Court Board and represented WVU at several national appellate advocacy competitions.
She returned to the upper Ohio Valley upon graduation, accepting a clerkship with the Honorable John H. Kamlowsky, Federal Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia. She entered private practice in 1982 in the courts of the Northern Panhandle, with the firm of William E. Watson and Associates.
She was elected to the bench in the First Family Court Circuit (Brooke, Hancock, and Ohio Counties) in 2002 and re-elected in 2008. Prior to her election, Governors Gaston Caperton and Bob Wise had appointed her to serve as a family law master in 1996 and family court judge in 1999, respectively.
In October of 1999 Judge Chernenko was elected President of the West Virginia Family Court Association, serving two consecutive terms until October 2001. During the 2000 and 2001 West Virginia legislative sessions, she was the primary representative of the Family Court Association, traveling across the state to advocate for the new court system and interacting with legislative leadership to assist them in their efforts to establish the Court.
Judge Chernenko has been on the vanguard of family court judicial administration, with the goal of improving the lives of children and families. She implemented a family court parenting mediation program two years before it was mandated statewide by the West Virginia Legislature. She also adopted a parent education program in her circuit prior to the Legislature implementing such a program statewide.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals awarded one of two statewide grants to Judge Chernenko to establish a children's waiting area at her court facility in Wheeling. In 2002 and 2003 the Supreme Court awarded her grants totaling $100,000 over two years for the purpose of establishing monitored parenting and exchange centers in Wheeling and Weirton to protect victims of domestic violence and children in high conflict parenting cases.
Since the passage of the West Virginia Family Court Constitutional Amendment in November of 2000, Judge Chernenko has been named to the Supreme Court's Family Court Legislative Committee and the Committee on Transfer of Domestic Violence Jurisdiction. She has been selected by the Supreme Court to train new Family Court Judges in domestic violence law, shared parenting law, and other areas of family law. In 2001 the Judge represented West Virginia's judiciary at a national conference in San Antonio, Texas, on the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse issues.
Judge Chernenko and her husband, Marc, have remained active at their alma mater; he has served on Bethany’s Board of Trustees for fifteen years. Judge Chernenko has served as the general advisor to Bethany’s chapter of her national women’s fraternity, Zeta Tau Alpha, the chapter having been founded in 1905. She has also been an alumnae advisor to both the Bethany College Panhellenic Council and the Bethany College Student Court. In addition, the Judge is an avid benefactor of the varsity women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams at Bethany. In 2004 Judge Chernenko was named outstanding alumna for her service to Bethany, and in 2012 she and her husband were jointly awarded alumni of the year honors.
Judge Chernenko is a member of the Wellsburg United Methodist Church and serves on the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. She is also active as a member of the Supporters of the Brooke Pioneer Trail, a “rails to trails” organization that works to maintain and advance recreation trails for hiking and bicycling in the Northern Panhandle.