If you live in West Virginia and have experienced a breakup that involves minor children, it's important to get a handle on the state's child custody laws. Even if you and your ex split long ago, it may be useful to review such laws if your circumstances have changed dramatically. One of you may plan to move or remarry, or your child may express a wish to live with one of you full time but not the other.
West Virginia uses several factors to determine custody laws. Primarily, family courts determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. The West Virginia courts prefer a joint custody arrangement which allows the child access to both parents. Parents who wish to file for child custody in West Virginia should first become familiar with the custody statutes in this state.
Best Interests of Child
The court in West Virginia will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. The court will review several factors to determine a child's best interests, such as the child's wishes; the parents' wishes; the parents' prior agreement; and each parent's involvement in past child-rearing responsibilities.
In West Virginia, the court's goal in determining child custody based on a child's best interests are the stability of the child; regular contact between the child and each parent; and the emotional and physical well-being of the child.
In West Virginia, if parents agree on child custody, the court will ask the parents to complete a written parenting agreement. The court will agree to the provisions in the parenting plan unless the agreement is not reached voluntarily or the parenting plan is harmful to the child.
Relocation and Child Custody
In West Virginia, if a parent is interested in relocating, he/she must supply their co-parent with at least 60 days advance notice, or as much notice as possible. The notice shall include:
- The date of relocation
- The address of the intended relocation
- Reasons for the relocation
- Provisions for how custody will be modified due to the move
The West Virginia court will determine whether the parent is able to relocate with a child and whether custody should be modified because of the change in child custody.
Modification of Custody in West Virginia
The West Virginia court will consider a modification of child custody if it determines that the custody plan is not working and/or is somehow harmful to a child. The following circumstances do not constitute a change of circumstances on their own:
- Loss of employment or income
- Either parent's remarriage or cohabitation
- Choices regarding reasonable caretaking arrangements for the child, including the choice of day care and schools
While on their own these changes in circumstance would not require a modification of custody there are circumstances that would.
If for example, either parent remarried someone who was violent this could be cause for a modification in custody. For further information about child custody in West Virginia, speak with a qualified attorney or refer to the West Virginia Code.