West Virginia does make a legal distinction between “separation” and divorce”; however, there is little difference when it comes to filings and required paperwork. A legal separation is not an end to a marriage but is often used by those who are considering divorce as a transition tool. On the other hand, a legal divorce is the end of a marriage.
What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?
The paperwork required for your divorce will change depending on facts and circumstances. Typically, where there is little disagreement or conflict between the divorcing parties, there is little paperwork. The more contested a divorce is the more paperwork there is that will be required.
For example, marriages where shared assets are being fought over will require more paperwork than those divorces where the parties agree on how to split assets or where there are no assets.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
West Virginia is considered an “equitable distribution” state. This means that a court will make an effort to determine what is fair when dividing marital assets. A court may consider the following when making an equitable distribution calculation:
- assets held by spouses prior to marriage,
- contributions made by each spouse during the marriage,
- likelihood of future income from investments (such as real estate), and
- the financial needs of each spouse going forward.
To make equitable distributions of property the courts will often rely on the testimony of experts when valuing investments. These calculations can be extremely complicated and you should have an experienced divorce attorney help you through the process to ensure that property is distributed appropriately.
What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?
Children almost always complicate divorces. Where child custody determinations are left to the courts they will always consider the “best interest of the child” before those of the parents. In doing so, a West Virginia court will consider the following:
- the location of the child’s friends and family,
- the location of the child’s school,
- where the child’s siblings live, and
- the child’s preferences (where the child is mature enough to make such choices).
Child support is often required of the parent that does not have primary custody. But the amount and duration of child support depends on the situation and is often decided by the court. It is important to note that child support is different from alimony, and some people are required to pay for both.
Do You Need to Pay Alimony?
You might be required to make ongoing financial contributions to the wellbeing of your former spouse even after the conclusion of your divorce – this is referred to as alimony. Alimony payments can be required in order to help a former spouse transition out of the marriage; furthermore, alimony payments may only last for a certain amount of time.
For example, a marriage lasting only six months would not typically require alimony payments for the same time period as a marriage that lasted twenty years.
Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
If you are thinking of filing for divorce or have been served with divorce papers, then contact an experienced West Virginia divorce lawyer today to discuss your rights and options under West Virginia divorce law.