How to File Divorce in West Virginia

How to File Divorce in West Virginia

West Virginia was formed during the U.S. Civil War, when the state of Virginia split off to join the confederacy and the people in the Appalachian part of the state decided they wanted to stay in the Union.  If you are leaving the union of your marriage, then you need to get familiar with these laws. 


If you were married in West Virginia, then you can file for divorce at any time as long as either you or your spouse is a resident at the time you file. 

If you were not married in the state, then you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least one year before you can file for divorce. 

Grounds for divorce

Most divorces in West Virginia are going to be granted on the no-fault basis of “irreconcilable differences.”  That just means that the couple wants to end the marriage and each spouse wants to go their separate ways.  Divorce can also be granted after the couple lives separately for one year. 

West Virginia does also allow couples to seek divorce on “fault” grounds. 

This used to be the only way to get a divorce.  Basically, one spouse has to prove that the other did something wrong. Couples that were seeking an amicable divorce would often hire a prostitute to pretend to have an affair with the husband so the court would allow the divorce.

West Virginia still has a law on the books because of this saying that “no divorce for adultery shall be granted on the uncorroborated testimony of a prostitute.”  Grounds for fault divorce in West Virginia today include adultery,  desertion, cruel and inhuman treatment, conviction of a felony, permanent and incurable insanity, habitual drunkenness or drug addiction, and abuse or neglect of a child

Forms can make it easy

Lawyers are costly, and many divorces are a simple matter of splitting up a little bit of money and working out a custody arrangement. 

The West Virginia Judiciary has developed some simple forms to help people get through the divorce process themselves.  

Property split

If the couple asks, the court granting a divorce can split the couple’s property. 

Everything a couple owns is generally treated as property of the marriage, while items brought into the marriage are kept separate. 

Inheritance and gifts are usually kept separate too.  The property is supposed to be split equitably, which just means fairly.  That leaves a lot of discretion up to the judge, though the split is usually about equal. 

Child custody and support

The court granting a divorce can make orders on custodial responsibility and decision-making responsibility for the couple’s children. 

That is what other states might call physical and legal custody.  It lays out both where a child will physically be at a given time as well as who will make decisions for the child. 

The court will look at many factors if it has to, but most couples will eventually come to an agreement before a judge has to decide.  One spouse can also be ordered to pay child support to the other, based on a formula developed by the state.

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