West Virginia Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make a West Virginia parenting plan / child custody agreement?

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.

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In West Virginia, how can I use the law to help me make my agreement?

Parents involved in a child custody proceeding in West Virginia are required to submit a parenting plan to the court. You may propose one separately or together.

State law defines key terms, explains how the court makes decisions, and suggests what to put in a parenting plan. Consult the West Virginia Code, Chapter 48: Domestic Relations, especially Article 5: Divorce and Article 9: Allocation of Custodial Responsibility and Decision-Making Responsibility of Children.

Use the law as a guide to create a parenting plan that meets the needs of your child. Doing so will increase your chances of a positive outcome in your case.

Some people use the parenting plan form provided by the state. See the West Virginia Judiciary Court Forms and search for "parenting plan".

Many others use the Custody X Change parenting plan template, an online tool that offers more guidance.

In West Virginia, which parent acts as the child's "legal custodian"?

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 custodian, but you may opt to alternate legal custodianship of the child between even and odd years.

In West Virginia, how are parental responsibilities delegated in a plan?

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

What do I need to know about West Virginia visitation schedules?

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's important to be as accurate as possible when creating your child visitation schedule, and follow the schedule, as it could affect child support.

For example, if your visitation schedule grants each of you an equal amount of time with your child, but one of you actually has the child 80% of the time, you may need to request an adjustment to your support order.

To be fair, 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 they'll know when to expect to spend time with each parent, which will establish a routine.

What kind of transportation rules should I include in my West Virginia plan?

Describe how you'll transport your child for exchanges.

The parent waiting for the child must wait at least a half-hour for the parent bringing the child. This is called a grace period. Every plan in West Virginia must have this rule, so write it in.

Additionally, your transportation provision 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.

What rules for communication should I include in my West Virginia plan?

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.

What else should I include in my West Virginia parenting plan?

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.

In West Virginia, what happens when our parenting plan is complete?

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.

What happens if we cannot agree on a West Virginia 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.

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