Ending a marriage is a difficult decision. Going through the process of a divorce can be challenging as well. This is especially true if you are the parent of minor children, own a home or business or have a pension plan. The best way to protect your rights and interests throughout the process is by working with an attorney who has extensive experience in West Virginia family law.
At Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, we offer our clients that experience along with the skill, resources and compassion they need to get through the stressful experience of a divorce. We can handle all legal aspects of your case, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Distribution of marital property
Our goal is to help you achieve the sense of peace and security you deserve as you move past your marriage and on to a new phase in your life.
To get started, simply call us or reach us online. Our divorce lawyers serve clients in Charleston and throughout West Virginia. We can provide an immediate, confidential consultation about your case.
Can You File for Divorce in West Virginia?
The first step in your case will be to determine whether you can file for a divorce in West Virginia. In other words:
- Do you meet the state’s residency requirement?
- Do you have legal grounds for a divorce?
Residency requirement. You can file for a divorce in our state only if:
- You were married in West Virginia and reside in the state at the time you file for a divorce; or
- You have lived in West Virginia for a continuous, uninterrupted period of at least one year prior to the divorce filing date.
Legal grounds for a divorce. West Virginia divorces can be granted on either no-fault or fault-based grounds.
A West Virginia no-fault divorce may be granted on the basis of:
- One-year separation – You and your spouse have voluntarily lived separate and apart for at least one continuous, uninterrupted year. This means no “cohabitation,” or living together as a couple, during the one-year period. You must have lived in separate residences.
- Irreconcilable differences – The differences between you and your spouse are significant and simply cannot be resolved.
You may also seek a West Virginia divorce on any of the following fault-based grounds:
- Cruel or inhuman treatment – Your spouse has engaged in conduct such as:
- Putting you in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm
- Making a false accusation of adultery or homosexuality
- Destroying or tending to destroy your mental or physical well-being, happiness and welfare, which makes living together unsafe or unendurable.
You do not need to allege or prove that your spouse engaged in actual acts of physical violence in order to obtain a divorce on this ground.
- Adultery – Your spouse had voluntary sexual intercourse with another person.
- Felony conviction – Your spouse was convicted of a felony in West Virginia or another state.
- Permanent and incurable insanity – Your spouse has been confined in a mental institution for at least three consecutive years prior to filing for divorce, and a medical expert testifies that your spouse suffers from “permanently incurable” insanity.
- Habitual drunkenness or drug addiction – Your spouse developed a problem with alcoholism or addiction to a narcotic or dangerous drug after you were married.
- Desertion – Your spouse willfully abandoned or deserted you for a period of at least six continuous months.
- Abuse or neglect of a child – Your spouse physically, mentally or sexually inflicted harm on a child of your marriage or willfully failed to provide the financial support, education, medical care or other care necessary for the child’s well-being.
How You Should Prepare for Your West Virginia Divorce
If you believe that you meet the residency requirement and have legal grounds for a divorce, you should take steps to prepare for what lies ahead. You should:
- Gather financial information. Make copies of pay stubs, tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements, pension information and stock certificates. You should also track what you spend on housing, food, education, clothing and other expenses.
- Make a list of all property. Divide your list into two categories: Property you brought into the marriage (separate property) and property acquired during the marriage (marital property), including your home, cars, furniture, jewelry and appliances. Marital property will be subject to being divided between you and your spouse.
- Set a budget. If you plan to live separate and apart for one year, you must establish a budget for you (and your children). A budget will help you to determine how much you may need in child or spousal support.
- Find a place to live. If you are leaving the marital home, you should find a place where you (and your children) will be safe and comfortable. If you are concerned about your safety, set up a P.O. Box for correspondence.
- Open personal financial accounts. You should open checking and savings accounts in your name. Consider using a bank different from the one where you and your spouse held a joint account.
- Notify the school, daycare or relatives looking after your children. Let a school or caretaker know which parent will drop off and pick up your children and which one will be making decisions.
- Contact a divorce lawyer. As we stated earlier, you should work with an attorney who will make sure all documents are properly and timely filed in your case and who will protect your rights and interests at every stage.
What You Should Expect in the West Virginia Divorce Process
It will be helpful for you to know the different steps in the divorce process in West Virginia, which include the following:
- Filing and Service – You (or your lawyer) will need to file all required forms in the proper Circuit Court and serve those forms on your spouse. These forms will include the divorce petition and your financial statement. If there are minor children in the marriage, you will need to file additional documents such as an application for child support.
- Answer – Your spouse should file and serve an answer within 20-30 days after you file the divorce petition (depending on how you served the petition). Your spouse may choose to contest the divorce and other related matters.
- Proposed Parenting Plan/Parent Education Class – Before your first hearing in Family Court, you will need to attend a parent education class (unless the court decides it is not necessary). You will also need to develop a proposed parenting plan, or how you and your spouse will share custody and decision-making responsibilities for your children. You can develop a plan together or you can propose individual plans.
- First Hearing – At this stage, a Family Court judge assigned to your case may decide initial issues such as child custody, child support and spousal support as well as who should live in the marital home while the divorce is pending.
- Separation Agreement – You and your spouse can arrive at a separation agreement that divides all marital property. This agreement can be presented to the court, which may approve it as written or make changes based on a range of different factors.
- Final Hearing and Divorce Order – The last stage in your case will be the final hearing and the court’s entry of the final divorce order. The court order should resolve all issues in your divorce, including spousal support, child support, child custody and property division. You will be legally divorced after this order is entered. You may then wish to take other steps such as changing your legal name.
- Appeals / Enforcement / Modification – After entry of the divorce order, either you or your spouse may choose to appeal the court’s decision. Other issues may arise after the final hearing, including taking actions to enforce aspects of the order or to modify issues such as child custody, child support or spousal support.
How a West Virginia Divorce Lawyer Can Help You
A divorce lawyer from Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, can play a vital role in your case. We can:
- Make sure all forms are accurately and timely filed
- File for temporary relief you may need, including a domestic violence protective order
- Help you to develop a parenting plan that serves your child’s best interests
- Seek needed spousal support and child support
- Assist you with evaluating and dividing your property, making sure your assets are protected and that you do not incur unwarranted debts
- Negotiate with your spouse (or spouse’s lawyer) with the goal of reaching mutual agreements on as many issues as possible
- Taking steps to ensure that any order in your case is enforced
- Seeking modifications if changes in your life make them necessary.
We will take the time to determine your goals in seeking a divorce, and we will work aggressively towards those goals. We will truly be your partner throughout the entire process.
Contact a Divorce Attorney Serving Charleston and West Virginia
The lawyers of Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, have the skill, experience and compassion to help you through your divorce in West Virginia. We can take the stress out of the process and work tirelessly to meet every one of your objectives. Contact us today to discuss your case.
Sources / More Information
- Domestic Relations, Chapter 48, West Virginia Code
- Divorce Packet Forms, West Virginia Judiciary