West Virginia Court Records
How are Divorce Records Generated in West Virginia?
The West Virginia divorce rate is 9.8, which is higher than the national divorce rate according to the United States Census Bureau. Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage or annulment, is when two people who are married decide to reverse that decision.
In West Virginia there are only two types of divorce: fault and no-fault. No-fault divorce is an option where both parties decide it would be best to end the marriage and do so amicably due to irreconcilable differences. Fault-based divorce is when one party files a petition for divorce accusing their spouse of misconduct or if one spouse disagrees with the other about irreconcilable differences within the marriage. This type often proves to be complicated. Fault divorce must be taken to court and both parties will have an attorney. Following testimonies from both parties and witnesses, a judge will make the decision on the terms of the divorce.Another way to get a divorce in West Virginia is to prove that the two spouses have not been living together for a minimum of one year. This does require evidence, but it can be simple. The parties must provide the court judge copies of their separate lease agreements, utility bills, and licenses or mail with their separate addresses.
The state of West Virginia allows people to file for a fault divorce based on one of the following grounds: cruel treatment by either party against the other, adultery, the conviction of a felony, the permanent and incurable psychological instability of one spouse, addiction, desertion, or abuse or neglect of a child. Any spouse making these accusations must be prepared to offer evidence to the court. The option of filing for a fault divorce on the grounds of cruelty or inhumane treatment can be complicated and traumatic, but it is recommended. These behaviors include: bodily harm caused by one spouse to the other, accusations of cheating or questioning the other spouse’s sexuality, and conduct from one spouse that negatively affects the mental or physical health of the other. Because filing for a divorce based on cruel or inhumane treatment can be traumatizing, West Virginia does not require that the abused spouse provide concrete evidence of the abuse aside from testimony and witness statements.
Are Divorce Records Public in West Virginia?
West Virginia is what is referred to as a “closed-record state,” meaning it does not mandate that vital records, including divorce records, be made available to the public. When a divorce is finalized, the case file is sealed by default and kept sealed and confidential for 50 years. Only those involved in the divorce process can access or view these records in this 50-year window unless requesting parties have permission from a judge or court order. After 50 years, records are made available at the Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce took place. This requires a completely filled out request form and includes fees, which vary depending on the county.
What are the types of Divorce Records Available in West Virginia?
There are three ways that the West Virginia government records divorces: divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and full divorce records. These different forms have various uses and costs, and usually only the involved parties can access them. It may be important to know what purpose these documents serve before requesting.
A divorce certificate is the most simple summary stating that a divorce has been finalized. This record lists the names of the two parties who have gotten the divorce, as well as the date, time, and location where the divorce was finalized. This form is most often requested by one of the divorced parties if they want to apply for a change of name on their I. D. or if they want to acquire a new marriage certificate. A divorce decree is slightly more detailed. This record will contain all the information that is held within a divorce certificate as well as a judge’s signature and case number. It also contains information regarding the agreed upon terms of the divorce, such as child support and custody agreements, alimony payment, visitation schedules, custody rights, a property and debt allocation. Divorce decrees in West Virginia are maintained by the Office of the Clerk of Family Court where the divorce occurred. A divorce record is the most detailed form of documentation that a divorce has happened and is considered the case file for a divorce. This record will include all aforementioned information, plus any documents, testimony, evidence, motions, summons, and reports generated throughout the divorce process. It also contains the final ruling by the judge, if applicable. Complete divorce records are maintained by the Family Courts in West Virginia, of which there are 27. These records will often be requested by the divorced parties if they wish to dispute or challenge any agreements listed within them.
How Do I Get Divorce Records in West Virginia?
West Virginia Vital Registration Office holds divorce records but records finalized within the last 50 years are not made available to the public. After 50 years, members of the public can make a request to view these records at the Vital Registration Office.
Although the West Virginia Vital Registration Office of the Department of Health and Human Services maintains and holds birth, death, and marriage records, it does not maintain divorce certificates. These records are only available to the divorced parties and can only be requested at the county level through the clerk of court.
Copies of divorce decrees and divorce records are given to both parties once a divorce is finalized, and are held and maintained by the Clerk of Family Court where the divorce occurred. If these records are misplaced or lost, the divorced parties can request another copy through the Clerk of Family Court in the county where the divorce was finalized with proper information, identification, and fees.
Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in West Virginia?
In most cases, only the divorced parties, their immediate family members, and attorneys involved in the divorce case can access divorce records. The court may grant authorization for viewing these records to others if proper justification is provided.
Are West Virginia Divorce Records available online?
In some cases, depending on the county, West Virginia divorce records can be found online. Certain county courthouses have public search portals where members of the public may be able to access these records, but availability widely varies from county to county. Third party websites are also an option but accessibility and reliability of the documents is not guaranteed because they are not government sponsored and therefore subject to misinformation.
How Do I seal My Divorce Records in West Virginia?
Because West Virginia is a closed record state, most divorce records are already sealed by the time the divorce has been finalized. If this is not the case, both parties must create a petition to send to the judge and the judge will likely seal the records in order to protect the personal information of those involved, especially if the information regards details about minors, abuse, or financial information.