Before filing for divorce in West Virginia, couples usually sit down and consider their options. In West Virginia, divorcing spouses can choose between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce, keeping in mind that the latter can be a Do-It-Yourself option that saves people time and money on legal fees. Once a couple decides on a type of divorce, they get a general idea of how to plan their divorce and what steps to take in legal proceedings. Before drafting your divorce plan, consider each divorce type and see what fits your situation better.
A divorce can be contested if either spouse chooses one of the fault-based grounds for divorce. In West Virginia, these are
- one spouse receives a felony conviction
- alcohol or drug addiction
- abuse of the spouse
- living apart for at least one year
- abuse or neglect of the couple’s child or a stepchild
- permanent and incurable insanity, or
- abandoning the other spouse for at least six months
At that, the spouse who contests a divorce carries the burden of proof and has to provide evidence of the other spouse’s fault in court.
This type of divorce cannot be handled without an attorney. Each spouse requires legal help in a contested divorce to deal with the paperwork and search evidence and present the case at trial.
Also referred to as a no-fault divorce, an uncontested dissolution of marriage is a simplified procedure because it won’t go to trial, and spouses try to settle all divorce-related issues outside of the court system. However, West Virginia has no special, simplified divorce process. Instead, spouses can facilitate an official end to their marriage by signing a settlement agreement before they appear in front of the judge. Once a couple memorializes their decisions regarding separate parenting, financial matters, and property division in a settlement agreement, their divorce in West Virginia is fast and easy.
Seeking an amicable end to their marriage, spouses decide on (1) how they will handle child custody and visitation schedules for their minor children; (2) how they will split child support payments, including expenses for education, healthcare, insurance coverage, etc.; (3) how they will distribute their marital assets and debts; and (4) whether one spouse will pay spousal support or alimony.
Although the court procedure is similar for all types of divorce in West Virginia, spouses can ‘skip’ the serving part in an uncontested divorce, avoiding sheriff or process server fees. Instead, the respondent can sign an “Acceptance of Service” form in the presence of a notary when receiving a copy of the divorce petition from the petitioner. The petitioner then files it together with the original divorce forms or afterward. However, West Virginia courts require the respondent to file a response to the petitioner’s divorce petition. Failure to do so within 20 days entitles the petitioner to request a default divorce.
Doing an uncontested divorce is a rather streamlined procedure, so most law firms offer flat-fee divorce packages. In West Virginia, the prices average around $2,666 – $3,000 for a no-fault divorce involving children and real estate if the spouses have already sorted out and drafted an agreement on the issues. If spouses have not reached unanimous decisions on the matters yet don’t intend to take their case to trial, the assistance of an attorney will cost them more depending on the complexity of their disputes.
Many couples prefer having a DIY divorce. If they have agreed on all dissolution-related matters, all that is left is filling out the court forms and apply for divorce at a local courthouse, which can be done without a lawyer.
Indeed, a DIY divorce is a fire-sure way to drive down the cost of divorce in West Virginia. Many courthouses assist couples with this option by providing self-help centers and prepared checklists. Those couples who want to go pro se in their divorce proceedings (have no attorney and self-represent in their court case) should pick up the divorce forms from a local courthouse or download them online from the courthouse’s website.
If that’s your case, set aside some time to complete the paperwork without a hurry and very attentively. Ensure all details are correct (names, place of marriage, and date of marriage match your marriage certificate). Include all required information and select only one ground for divorce (irreconcilable differences). Enclose all the documents required (make sure you enclose originals), and double-check all the information for completeness and correctness. If you do it correctly, the court will process your divorce papers on the first try, and you will get your divorce finalized within 20-30 days. Keep in mind that staff at self-help centers are not authorized to give legal advice.
Regardless of which divorce option is chosen, a couple can only initiate a divorce if they first meet the state residency requirements. In Virginia, either spouse must have resided in the state for more than 12 months before filing for divorce.
Despite the available self-help resources, many petitioners want some assistance to ensure their divorce papers are error-free without paying legal fees to an attorney. Using Internet divorce services is a way out of the predicament. You pay a very affordable fee, provide information about your family and divorce-related issues following a questionnaire on the online divorce companies website, and get completed documents, usually in two business days. You can be sure that the completed court-ready divorce forms will be error-free and ready for you to file at a local courthouse.
After paying filing fees at the courthouse and waiting for 20 to 30 days, a West Virginia divorce is finalized at a hearing. When preparing an application for divorce online, most divorces companies provide additional information about how to file with the court, making that part easy too.
So, online divorce is an inexpensive option that helps guide a couple through the divorce process in West Virginia.