Your divorce doesn’t have to break you or the bank. There is a kinder, quicker and less expensive alternative to the typical TV divorce drama – an uncontested or simplified divorce.
While divorce is never an easy thing for the spouses involved, it can be a fairly simple process. For those spouses that are still able to compromise, an uncontested divorce will allow them, rather than a judge, to make the final decisions on their divorce.
This article provides a general overview of the process to obtain an uncontested divorce in West Virginia. If after reading this article, you still have questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Uncontested divorces are a faster option available to couples with or without children and are generally much less expensive than contested divorces. West Virginia offers a simplified process for uncontested divorces if spouses are able to agree on all major issues in the divorce. With an uncontested divorce, the spouses must agree on every issue in the divorce including child custody and child support, if children are involved. For more information on calculating child support for divorce purposes in West Virginia, click here.
If you are unable to agree with your spouse on any major issue in the divorce, your divorce is contested one and you’ll have to go to trial to sort out the details of your divorce.
Additionally, this type of simplified or summary divorce can save couples the stress associated with going to trial, although a hearing before the judge is still required to finalize your divorce. The following is a list of major issues that must be resolved by the spouses before filing an uncontested divorce action in West Virginia:
To obtain a divorce in West Virginia you must meet the following criteria:
If you meet the above criteria, you may proceed with your uncontested divorce by filing a divorce petition and subsequent settlement agreement. West Virginia Legal Services publishes a comprehensive website with instructions for completing the divorce process on your own. If you are a West Virginia resident or last resided with your spouse in West Virginia, your spouse does not need to reside in the West Virginia for you to obtain a divorce in the state.
If you elect to file for divorce without the help of an attorney, you will be responsible for filing the correct documents in the correct court. West Virginia has a separate family court system with 35 family court judges. Presently, there are 26 family court circuits in West Virginia. Where you live will determine where you file for divorce. Typically, you will file your paperwork in the county where you reside. However, for separated spouses, either the county in which you live, or where you spouse lives, is proper to file your paperwork.
The West Virginia Judiciary System offers online forms for completing an uncontested divorce available here or in hard copy at the local courthouse. The following documents must be filed with your initial divorce paperwork:
If you and your spouse have children under 18, the following additional forms need to be filed with your divorce paperwork:
Different counties within West Virginia may require forms in to those listed above. It is best to check with your local court clerk to verify that everything the judge needs has been filed properly. Additionally, if you and your spouse have minor children, then you must schedule and attend a parent education course before attending a hearing before the judge. Even spouses seeking an uncontested divorce will need to attend a hearing before the judge.
A Family Law Master will hold an initial meeting in your case no sooner than 20 days after the Petition for Divorce has been served on your spouse or 30 days if you served your spouse by publication. At the final hearing, you will explain to the judge why you are seeking a divorce and the terms of your settlement with your spouse. If the judge agrees with the settlement, you will be asked to submit the final Findings of Fact and Decree of Divorce for the judge’s signature.
The date the judge signs the Decree of Divorce (not the date of your hearing) is when your divorce becomes final. Thus, West Virginia requires spouses to wait at least 20 days before a divorce could be completed; however, how long your uncontested divorce will take is dependent on how quickly your hearing before the judge can be scheduled.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in West Virginia, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance. For more information on uncontested divorces in West Virginia, see West Virginia Code, Chapter 48, Article 6, et seq.