Filing for divorce in West Virginia sets in motion a process governed by several rules, procedures, and deadlines. You must understand the details of how this works so that you can protect yourself until your case is over.
Here are several things that are good to know:
- What Information Should I Gather and Prepare for Divorce in West Virginia?
- What are the divorce process options?
- What are the Necessary Forms to Prepare for a West Virginia Divorce?
- How Do I File for a Divorce in West Virginia?
- How do I serve my spouse with divorce papers?
- What are the steps for getting a divorce after I’ve filed the initial papers?
- More FAQs
What Information Should I Gather and Prepare for Divorce in West Virginia?
Before you move forward with an initial filing for divorce in West Virginia, the smartest thing you can do is gather all the critical information you’ll need. The earlier you start and the more organized you are, the faster the process will be. You’ll also save time and money along the way.
Depending on your situation, there can be a lot to pull together. It can be time-consuming and tedious, but you can’t negotiate the best settlement or give your attorney all the tools they need to represent you unless you take care of this step.
To ensure the best possible outcome for your divorce, it’s critical to gather all the crucial documents you’ll need. Being organized as you gather these documents can also save you time, money, and aggravation.
Your attorney won’t be able to help you and negotiate the best possible settlement on your behalf unless they are also armed with facts and information to support your assertions.
To see what you need to gather, check out our article, The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
How Do I Determine Which Divorce Procedure to Use in West Virginia?
After you have decided to move forward with a divorce, one of the first things you’ll need to determine is what kind of divorce works best for you. This will set the tone and the framework for everything that comes after it.
In West Virginia, you have several options, some more expensive and confrontational than others, so you and your spouse will need to come to some kind of understanding (or not). How you proceed is largely driving by your relationship and your level of trust with each other.
To learn what your divorce options are, review our article What are the Different Types of Divorce? so you can start to form the most effective and appropriate strategy.
What are the Necessary Forms to Prepare for a West Virginia Divorce?
The exact forms you’ll need will depend on the circumstances of your case. A complete list of forms has been put into various Divorce Packet Forms by the West Virginia Judiciary to help you get started.
If you’re not sure what forms to complete, consult an attorney or ask the court staff for assistance. Staff can’t provide legal assistance but can help you with the process.
How Do I File Forms for a Divorce in West Virginia?
Once your forms are complete, you’ll file them at the Circuit Clerk’s Office at the courthouse in the jurisdiction where you or your spouse lives. You must file the forms in person.
When you file, you’ll have to pay a filing fee that runs about $160. Exact costs vary from courthouse to courthouse.
How do I Serve Forms on my Spouse in a West Virginia Divorce?
After your forms have been filed with the court, you must legally let your spouse know that you intend to divorce them. This is done through “process of service” and requires that they are given a copy of the paperwork you filed.
You can’t simply hand them the paperwork and call it a day. The state has specific methods you must follow. You can complete service by one of the following ways:
- Personal service. Any person 18 or older can hand deliver the paperwork to your spouse. Oftentimes this is a friend or a sibling. Sometimes, you can hire a service to do this for you.
- Sheriff’s deputy. For a small fee, you can have a sheriff’s deputy serve paperwork on your spouse. You will need to pay this fee when you file.
- Certified mail. You can mail paperwork to your spouse, but you must get proof of delivery through a signed receipt.
- Service by publication. If you try other methods and can’t complete service, you can publish a notice in a local paper for several weeks that publicly notifies your spouse of your intent to divorce them.
- A spouse can pick paperwork up at the courthouse. If your spouse agrees, he or she can consent to pick up the paperwork at the courthouse.
In all of these methods, you will need to file a proof of service document with the court. The exact form that is filed will vary by the method you choose.
Check with your local courthouse for details on how each of these works.
After I Have Filed, What are the Steps for Getting a Divorce in West Virginia?
The exact steps for getting a divorce in West Virginia vary depending on the particulars of your case, but some steps are common to all divorces.
After you have filed your paperwork and served your spouse, they have 20 days to file a response with the Circuit Court’s Office. That deadline extends to 30 days if service was completed by publication.
If you’re a member of the armed services, you may have special protections granted to you under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other federal protections.
After the response has been filed, parties will either enter into mediation, collaborative efforts, or begin preparations for litigation.
In most cases, attorneys and spouses are able to work out a settlement agreement and submit it to the court. After the court reviews the agreement, a judge can either approve the settlement agreement or send it back with questions or more work.
The vast majority of cases are handled this way.
But when two sides can’t agree, the divorce may go to trial. At the trial, both spouses will present evidence and witnesses. The judge will listen to the testimony and then make a ruling on various issues that will become part of the final settlement agreement.
More FAQs About West Virginia Divorce
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in West Virginia?
Filing fees range slightly from court to court but are generally about $160. You will also need to pay a separate fee if you want a sheriff’s deputy to complete the process of service for you.
Can divorce fees be waived in West Virginia?
In some cases. If you can prove that you don’t have the means to pay the filing fee, you can request a waiver from the court. If granted, you will not need to pay the fee.
Can I file for divorce online in West Virginia?
No. You must file paperwork in person. You can do much of the prep over the Internet through an online service or an attorney who can help prepare paperwork for you. For this, I recommend using 3 Step Divorce.
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Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?
Yes. You are never required to hire an attorney to represent you. Many people choose this option in an uncontested divorce where they can work together to resolve issues and there is a certain level of trust. However, if there are unresolved issues or any conflict, your best bet might be to hire an attorney to represent you.
What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce in West Virginia?
Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state continuously for one year immediately preceding when you file for divorce.
How long does it take to get a divorce in West Virginia? What is the timeline?
With an uncontested divorce, the court may approve a final settlement in anywhere from 30 to 90 days. It will depend on case backlogs and judges’ availability to review a settlement agreement.
Other forms of divorce take longer. Mediation or collaborative divorce can easily take 6 months or longer, depending on the level of cooperation and the issues that need to be resolved.
Can I file for divorce in West Virginia while I am pregnant?
Yes. You can file at any time, pregnant or not. A judge may delay a final settlement until after the baby is born so that proper paternity can be established for the child.
A father may agree that they are the parent, but when there is a disagreement, paternity may need to be established by genetic testing.
Establishing paternity is critical because, in West Virginia, both parents have a shared obligation to the child.
If I am in the military, how does that affect filing for divorce?
If you want to file for divorce in West Virginia, and you or your spouse are in the military, one of you must reside in the state or be stationed in the state.
Some of the rules and laws are the same in a military divorce as they are for a civilian divorce.
But there are also several differences.
For example, a military spouse can request a delay in divorce proceedings so that his or her military duties are impacted. As long as it is approved by a West Virginia court, a service member can delay a legal action when he or she is on active duty plus 60 days beyond the end of his or her enlistment.
These laws also govern how military pensions are disbursed and whether or not a spouse has medical and commissary privileges after a divorce.
For orders dividing retired pay as property, a member and former spouse must have been married to each other for 10 years or more during which the member performed at least 10 years of military service creditable towards retirement eligibility. This is the 10/10 rule.
To gain these privileges, the former spouse must have been married at least 20 years; the military spouse had at least 20 years of creditable service, and those two overlapped by at least 20 years. This is known as the 20/20/20 rule.
In West Virginia, child support and alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a service member’s pay and allowances.
A divorce filed overseas can be complicated, and U.S. courts may not recognize a foreign divorce. For that reason, it’s usually best to file in the United States.
Looking for more great tips about how to navigate through the divorce process? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- 29 Warning Signs That Your Marriage is in Trouble
- 50 Ways to Prepare for Divorce
- How to Find Hidden Assets in a Divorce
- Gray Divorce: The Complete Guide