Divorce in West Virginia: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Unbiased team

Explore how to divorce in West Virginia comprehensively. From filing and records to costs, and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Alabama and help you make informed decisions.

Summary

  • In West Virginia, divorces are categorized into no-fault and fault-based.

  • The average cost of a contested divorce in West Virginia is between $10,000 and $15,000.

  • At least one spouse must have lived in West Virginia for a minimum of one year before filing for divorce. However, if you got married in the state and one spouse currently lives there, this is waived. 

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in West Virginia?

In West Virginia, divorces are categorized into no-fault and fault-based.

  • No-fault divorce: This option does not require proof of wrongdoing by either spouse. Grounds for a no-fault divorce include irreconcilable differences or living apart for at least one year.

  • Fault-based divorce: This requires one spouse to prove the other's misconduct, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, addiction, or incarceration, which led to the marriage breakdown.

Choosing between a no-fault and a fault-based divorce impacts the divorce proceedings, especially regarding asset division, alimony, and child custody. 

Legal separation is also an option for those not ready to divorce but wishing to live apart and address financial and custodial issues.

How much does a divorce cost in West Virginia?

The cost of a divorce in West Virginia can vary widely based on several factors, including whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of asset division, and whether issues like child custody and alimony are involved. 

According to various reports, the average cost of a contested divorce in West Virginia is between $10,000 and $15,000. However, depending on the complexity of your case, this can be even more. 

Uncontested divorces, when both parties agree on all terms, are often cheaper and less time-consuming. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the typical costs that the majority of divorces will incur: 

  • Filing fees: The court charges a filing fee to process divorce papers, which is typically around $135-$200, depending on the county.

  • Attorney fees: For those who choose to hire a lawyer, attorney fees can significantly impact the overall cost. Uncontested divorces where both parties agree on the terms can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 on average. Contested divorces, where disagreements require court intervention, can start at $5,000 and escalate depending on the case's complexity and duration.

  • Additional costs: Other expenses may include mediation fees, court costs for filing motions, and costs related to obtaining financial documents or expert testimonies.

How do you file for divorce in West Virginia?

Filing for divorce in West Virginia involves a series of steps designed to ensure both parties have a clear understanding of the legal process and their rights. 

Here's a simplified overview of the process you have to go through when filing for divorce in West Virginia:

  1. Determine eligibility: At least one spouse must have lived in West Virginia for a minimum of one year before filing for divorce. However, if the marriage was performed in West Virginia and one spouse currently resides in the state, the one-year residency requirement may be waived.

  2. Choose the type of divorce: Decide whether you are filing for a no-fault or fault-based divorce. This decision will influence your approach to the paperwork and proceedings.

  3. File the petition: The divorce process officially begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Petition for Divorce with the circuit court in the county where either spouse resides. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and any requests for matters like property division, alimony, and child custody.

  4. Serve your spouse: After filing, the petition must be legally served to the other spouse (the respondent), providing them an opportunity to respond. West Virginia law offers several methods for serving documents, including sheriff's service or certified mail.

  5. Wait for a response: The respondent has a set period (usually 20-30 days) to answer the petition, agreeing or disagreeing with the terms proposed by the petitioner.

  6. Negotiate agreements: If there are disputes over assets, custody, or other issues, both parties may need to negotiate to reach an agreement. This can be done privately, through attorneys, or with the help of a mediator.

  7. Attend the final hearing: Once all issues are resolved, the court schedules a final hearing. Both parties present their cases, after which the judge issues a final divorce decree, officially ending the marriage.

How do you split assets in a divorce in West Virginia?

Asset division in a West Virginia divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means the court divides marital property fairly, though not necessarily equally, between the spouses. 

Here's how the process generally unfolds:

  • Marital property is identified: First, all assets acquired during the marriage are identified as marital property, which includes real estate, vehicles, savings, and debts. Separate property, such as inheritances or gifts specifically given to one spouse, is not typically divided.

  • Assets are evaluated: The court assesses the value of the marital assets. This can involve appraisals for real estate, valuations of businesses, and assessments of financial accounts.

  • Division factors are considered: West Virginia courts consider several factors when dividing assets, including:

    • The length of the marriage

    • Each spouse's contributions to the marital property

    • Each spouse's income and earning potential

    • The custody arrangements for any children

  • Assets are divided: Based on these factors, the court decides on a fair division of assets. This might mean physically dividing property, awarding one spouse a larger share of the assets, or ordering one spouse to pay the other a compensatory amount.

It's important to note that equitable does not mean equal, and the division of assets can vary greatly depending on the couple's unique situation and the court's discretion.

How does alimony work in West Virginia?

Alimony, also known as spousal support in West Virginia, is financial assistance that the court may order one spouse to pay the other during or after a divorce. 

West Virginia recognizes several types of alimony, including temporary, short-term, and permanent. The type awarded depends on the receiving spouse's specific needs and the circumstances of the divorce.

The court considers many factors when deciding on alimony, such as:

  • The length of the marriage

  • Each spouse's earning capacity and educational level

  • The age and health of both spouses

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The ability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and still maintain a reasonable standard of living

Alimony can be modified or terminated based on significant changes in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in either spouse's income, the recipient spouse's remarriage, or retirement.

For divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient under federal tax laws.

What happens to children during a divorce in West Virginia?

West Virginia courts prioritize children's wellbeing in divorce cases, focusing on custody, visitation, and child support, with the child's best interests as the guiding principle.

The court decides on sole or joint custody based on factors like the child's relationship with each parent, each parent's ability to care for the child, and any abuse history. The aim is for children to have continuous contact with both parents.

When deciding on child support, the court will calculate this based on the Income Shares Model, which considers both parents' incomes and the child's needs. This ensures the child's standard of living is as close as possible to what it would have been if the family remained together.

Custody and support orders can be updated if significant changes in circumstances occur, always keeping the child's best interest in focus.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.