West Virginia Child Custody
Title 9 of Chapter 48 in the West Virginia Code contains the laws and statutes about child custody for the state. Here is a brief overview of some of these guidelines that parents involved in a custody situation should know.
Parent Education Classes and Mediation (48-9-104, 202)
When parents divorce or separate, they must attend a parenting class that is offered by the state. This class teaches parents about how to help their children handle the effects of divorce. It also helps parents create a West Virginia visitation schedule because they better learn about the needs of the children and how the schedule can help those needs.
If a mother and father cannot agree on a parenting plan, they must attend mediation. If mediation isn’t successful, they can go to court and a judge will determine the plan.
Objective of the Law (48-9-102)
The objective for all decisions concerning custody is to ensure the best interest of the child. Therefore, everything that is done in a custody proceeding, and everything that goes into a West Virginia custody agreement, must facilitate:
- the stability of the child;
- Parental planning and agreement about the child’s custodial arrangements and upbringing;
- Continuity of existing parent-child attachments;
- Meaningful contact between a child and each parent;
- Caretaking relationships by adults who love the child, know how to provide for the child’s needs, and who place a high priority on doing so;
- Security from exposure to physical or emotional harm; and
- Expeditious, predictable decision-making and avoidance of prolonged uncertainty respecting arrangements for the child’s care and control.
A secondary objective of custody decisions is to achieve fairness between the parents.
Requirement of a West Virginia Parenting Plan (48-9 Part 2)
Parents in West Virginia must create a parenting plan to submit to the court. If the parents agree on the plan, they can submit one together and it will be accepted. If they are not able to cooperate, each parent must submit a proposed plan that contains the following information:
- The name, address and length of residence of any adults with whom the child has lived for one year or more, or in the case of a child less than one year old, any adults with whom the child has lived since the child’s birth;
- The name and address of each of the child’s parents and any other individuals with standing to participate in the action;
- A description of the allocation of caretaking and other parenting responsibilities performed by each person named in subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection during the twenty-four months preceding the filing of an action under this article;
- A description of the work and child-care schedules of any person seeking an allocation of custodial responsibility, and any expected changes to these schedules in the near future;
- A description of the child’s school and extracurricular activities;
- A description of any of the limiting factors as described in section 9-209 that are present, including any restraining orders against either parent to prevent domestic or family violence, by case number and jurisdiction;
- Required financial information; and
- A description of the known areas of agreement and disagreement with any other parenting plan submitted in the case.
A judge will look at these factors and determine a final parenting plan. This plan includes:
- A provision for the child’s living arrangements and each parent’s custodial responsibility, which shall include either:
- A West Virginia custody schedule that designates in which parent’s home each minor child will reside on given days of the year; or
- A formula or method for determining such a schedule in sufficient detail that, if necessary, the schedule can be enforced in subsequent proceedings by the court;
- An allocation of decision-making responsibility as to significant matters reasonably likely to arise with respect to the child; and
- A provision for resolution of disputes that arise under the plan, and remedies for violations of the plan.
A parenting plan may, at the court’s discretion, contain provisions that address matters that are expected to arise in the event of a party’s relocation, or provide for future modifications in the parenting plan if specified contingencies occur.