West Virginia Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in West Virginia and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for West Virginia courts.
In West Virginia, you can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Parents involved in a child custody proceeding in the State of West Virginia are required to submit a parenting plan to the court. Using the law as a tool as you create your parenting plan will give you an advantage and increase your chances of a positive outcome in your case.
The law is a valuable resource to use when creating a parenting plan. It provides information regarding the contents of a parenting plan, defines the terms and verbiage used in a parenting plan and by the court, and details the criteria the court uses to rule on a parenting plan.
These laws can be found in the West Virginia Code, Chapter 48, Domestic Relations. By using the law as a guide when creating your parenting plan, you will be better informed and able to create a parenting plan that complies with the law while meeting the needs of your child.
When creating a parenting plan in the State of West Virginia, you must designate one parent to act as the child's legal custodian.
The parent with whom the child spends the majority of time with is typically the legal custodial, but you may opt to alternate legal custodianship of the child between even and odd years.
A major function of the parenting plan is to delegate parental responsibilities, rights, and decision making authority to each, either, or both of the parents (§48-1-235.4).
There are two decision-making rules that apply to all parenting plans, in all cases, which you will need to include in your West Virginia parenting plan:
- Decisions about the child's daily care and control of the child shall be made by the parent with whom the child resides.
- Either parent may make any emergency decisions regarding the child's health or safety, regardless of whom the child resides with.
The rest of the decision making authority may be granted to the mother, the father, or both parents. You will need to decide whether decision making rights on a variety of different topics shall be granted to a specific parent or shared by both parents (§48-9-205.c.1).
The issues involving parental decision-making authority are:
- The child's education
- The child's medical, dental, and eye care
- Religious matters
- Child care
- The employment of the child
- The child's motor vehicle use
- School and after school activities such as sports
- Any other matters you wish to include
Another function of the parenting plan is to make arrangements for how the child's time will be shared between each of you (§48-9-205.c.1).
Your child visitation schedule should contain:
- A residential schedule
- A holiday schedule
- Provisions for vacation time
It is important to be as accurate as possible when creating your child visitation schedule, and follow the schedule, as it could have an effect on child support.
For example, your child visitation schedule was written to provide each of you with an equal amount of time with your child, but one parent actually has the child 80% of the time, the amount of child support paid or owed would be disproportionate.
In order to be fair, you need to keep track of the actual amount of time the child spends with each of you.
You can create an accurate and detailed child visitation schedule by examining the schedules of the parents and creating a schedule that provides your child the optimal amount of time with both of you.
Following the schedule will help give your child stability and security, as he or she will know when to expect to spend time with each parent, which will establish a routine.
Your West Virginia parenting plan must include provisions for the transportation of your child between exchanges.
Transportation arrangements in ALL parenting plans must include the stipulation that the parent bringing the child is to be afforded a thirty minute grace-period by the waiting parent.
Additionally the transportation arrangements should designate:
- How the child will be exchanged
- Where the child will be exchanged
- Who will incur the costs of transporting the child
- Who is allowed to transport the child between exchanges
If parents agree that a responsible adult may pick up or deliver the child, that stipulation may be included.
If parents agree that a certain person should not be permitted to transport the children, that stipulation may be included, as well.
Provisions for communication between the child and each parent should be included in the parenting plan and you should keep these factors in mind as you write the communication portion of your agreement:
- Both parents need to be responsible for the child's parental communication.
- Children need to feel loved and have a good relationship with both parents.
- The parent with whom the child resides should attempt to foster a good relationship between the child and the other parent and encourage the child to contact the other parent.
- The parent that does not reside with the child should make an effort to contact the child on a regular basis.
You may include as many provisions and details in the parenting plan as you are able to agree on.
Additional provisions, such as stipulations for military families, communication between the parents, and methods of dispute resolution can be found in Article 9 in the Domestic Relations Chapter of the West Virginia Code.
Once your parenting plan is agreed upon and submitted to the court, the court will review it to make sure it serves the best interest of your child. Once approved by the court, it shall be made a court order (§48-9-201).
Working with the other parent is the best way to ensure you have input into the parenting plan.
If you are unable to agree on your parenting plan, the court may order custody as it deems appropriate (§48-5-603), so it is important to try to reach an agreement with the other parent.
You may want to attend mediation or counseling to try to work your differences out so your custody arrangements aren't determined by the court.
The top ten cities in West Virginia (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Fairmont, Weirton, Martinsburg, Beckley, Clarksburg.