West Virginia Divorce Laws

Deciding to file for divorce is never an easy decision. Apart from the emotions tied to dissolving a marriage, you must also weigh the consequences and learn more about the laws. If you are filing for divorce in West Virginia, this is what you need to know.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

To file for divorce in West Virginia, you must meet the state’s residency requirements. If you did not get married in West Virginia, at least one of you must have lived in the state for a full year. If the marriage occurred in West Virginia, this requirement is waived.

If you are qualified to file in the state, you must have appropriate grounds. No-fault divorce is allowed if the couple has lived apart without cohabitation for one full year. No-fault divorce is also allowed on a basis of irreconcilable differences. Otherwise, to file for divorce in West Virginia, one of the following must be true:

  • Adultery
  • False accusation of adultery or homosexuality
  • Reasonable apprehension of bodily harm
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug use
  • Physical or mental abuse that renders cohabitation unsafe or unendurable
  • Willful abuse or neglect of a spouse or child
  • Felony conviction
  • Incurable insanity

If one of the members of the couple is in the military, they may file for divorce in West Virginia provided they have lived in the state for one year or were married in the state. The residency requirement is fulfilled if the residency is due to military placement. However, military couples must follow military family law, and many find using an attorney to be helpful in ensuring they do.

Division of Property

West Virginia follows the equitable distribution model for distributing property after a divorce. This makes the distribution based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. When the parties cannot make their own agreement outside of court, the following factors will be considered:

  • How much each party contributed to the acquisition and preservation of the property
  • Extent to which the party reduced or increased the income-earning capacity of the other member of the marriage using his or her own efforts
  • Whether either party caused the dissipation of depreciation of the value of the marital property

Child Custody

Child custody arrangements are determined based on what is in the child’s best interests. The following factors will be considered:

  • Stability of the child
  • Parental planning and agreement about the child’s custody or upbringing
  • The desire to continue existing parent-child attachments
  • Meaningful contact between child and each parent
  • Care taking relationships between adults who love the child and know how to care for the child
  • Keeping the child safe from physical or mental harm
  • The desire to make a decision quickly to avoid prolonging any uncertainty


Sometimes the courts will decide that one spouse needs to pay support to the other. This is determined on a case by case basis and will vary from one situation to the next. Factors considered include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Distribution of marital property
  • Age, physical, mental, and emotional condition
  • Present employment income and other earnings
  • Income-earning abilities of each party
  • Educational qualifications
  • Whether or not a party has postponed education or career advancement due to the marriage
  • Whether the supported spouse can increase his or her income within a reasonable amount of time by furthering his or her education
  • Contributions made by one spouse to the employment, education, or economic advancement of the other
  • Cost of getting job training
  • Tax consequences
  • Cost of educating children
  • Cost of providing healthcare for the parties and the children
  • Whether it would be inappropriate for the custodial parent to work outside of the home
  • Financial needs of each party
  • Legal obligation of the parties to support themselves or others
  • Costs and care of a child’s physical or mental disabilities
  • Other factors the court deems necessary to consider

Child support is awarded based on the Income Shares model. This divides the approximate cost of raising the child proportionally to the parents’ individual incomes. The non-custodial parent will then provide his or her amount to the custodial parent.