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West Virginia Court Records

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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in West Virginia

Marriage, as a civil contract, is based on the family law in West Virginia. The laws govern the formation of family units as well as its dissolution or termination via divorce and annulment. The West Virginia Judiciary is vested with the statutory power to issue a decree of divorce or annulment, and officials maintain court records created in the process. These records are available to the public unless restricted for containing confidential information.

What is a West Virginia Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree in West Virginia is a judicial order that terminates a marriage contract per Section § 48–1–227 and Section § 48–1–221 of the West Virginia Code. In addition to terminating the marriage contract, the divorce decree also rescinds the legal status ascribed to married persons. Thus, the divorcees are subject to the rights, duties, capacities, and incapacities attributed to unmarried persons in the state.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in West Virginia?

An annulment is a judicial order that nullifies the marriage contract ab initio (Section § 48–1–227).. Such null marriages include:

  • Marriage of underage persons (Section §48–2–106);
  • Marriage between legally incapable persons (Section §48–2–301);
  • Marriage between relative (Section §48–2–302);
  • Marriage of persons with living spouses before the divorce is final; and,
  • Marriage by force or fraud.

Annulment proceedings and divorce proceedings are dissimilar, although both follow the Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court. Court records of both legal actions are regarded as public unless a court order or statute says otherwise (Section § 48–1–303)..

Annulment vs. Divorce in West Virginia

Divorce and annulment have the same basic objective, i.e., the dissolution of a marriage contract. However, both differ in court requirements and legal effects. In a divorce, the court presupposes the marriage to be valid marriage pending a judicial decree dissolving the bonds of matrimony. On the other hand, an annulment means that the marriage was invalid and did not take place. Furthermore, while both actions leave the parties free to contract a new marriage, a divorce does not necessarily relieve divorcees of certain obligations such as alimony, spousal and parental responsibilities.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce in West Virginia?

No, an annulment costs more than an uncontested divorce due to court fees, attorney fees if represented, and the cost of medicolegal investigations. The latter is crucial to supporting a petition for annulment as the court does not accept testimonies or affidavits. Thus, an annulment is comparably more expensive than a divorce in West Virginia.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in West Virginia?

An uncontested divorce is also called a no-fault divorce. The concept behind this is that the spouses can dissolve a marriage without becoming adversaries. Uncontested divorce also eliminates the need to prove the other to be at fault in the marriage, thus streamlining the divorce process. However, the court still requires the intending divorcees to prepare and submit a divorce agreement. The divorce agreement details the equitable distribution of property and debts, alimony, parental responsibility, and child support. In most cases, an uncontested divorce does not require a court appearance. And by following systematic instructions, the parties can finalize the process without legal help.  

Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in West Virginia

Divorcee forms are available at the West Virginia family court where the plaintiff intends to file the petition. The divorce forms for the petitioner and the respondent are also available for download on this webpage. Follow the court guide for filing a divorce in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, the intending divorcee or the estranged spouse must meet the West Virginia residency requirement of one year (Section § 48–5–105).. Court records on a divorce proceeding are available to interested persons at the courthouse, online, or by mail. Persons making in-person and mail requests should consult the court directory for the contact of the West Virginia court.  

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in West Virginia?

Copies of divorce decrees are only available at the family court that adjudicated the divorce. Concerned persons must visit the office of the clerk in-person and during business hours to get a copy of the divorce decree. Alternatively, the requester may mail a written request in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Either way, the requester must provide the necessary details to facilitate a search, i.e., the case number, party names, and the date of the divorce decree. Mail requests must contain a government-issued photo I. D. as well as payment for the applicable fees.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability is not guaranteed. Similarly, their availability through third-party websites and companies is not guaranteed, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records is not guaranteed.

How do I Get a West Virginia Divorce Decree Online?

West Virginia divorce decrees are not available via online requests. Thus, the requester must visit the family court to get a copy of the divorce decree.

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