A divorce or marital dissolution formally ends the marital relationship and the duties and responsibilities of the parties toward one another, including the division of marital assets and debts. If there are minor children involved and an inequitable financial situation exists, there may be continued obligations.
Do You Need an Attorney?
If you had a short marriage with no children and few marital assets, you can probably navigate through the West Virginia court system with a little help from self-help guides and achieve your own divorce.
However, if you and your spouse have unresolved differences regarding the division of assets, of what constitutes marital property, or have other issues pertaining to child custody, visitation, and financial support, having legal representation can protect you from making decisions you may later regret.
Getting a Divorce
Before you can file for divorce in West Virginia, you must have lived in the state for at least one year. The state recognizes fault and no-fault divorces. You may proceed with a no-fault divorce by alleging irreconcilable differences or if you have lived in separate residences for one year without interruption.
For some people who are unsure about getting a divorce, you have the option of a legal separation that is the equivalent of a marital dissolution with all the obligations and duties set forth as if you were divorced. If you later decide to proceed with the dissolution, you already have the framework in place.
An annulment is a court decree stating that your marriage never existed. Most states allow an annulment under very limited circumstances. West Virginia has a wide range of situations for voiding a marriage. These situations include if one party was a convicted criminal without the knowledge of the other; if a spouse was insane or had a venereal disease; was pregnant with another man's child without the husband's knowledge; or if the wife was notoriously a prostitute or the husband notoriously a licentious person.
Avoiding court should be your goal because of the legal fees and costs involved in any divorce and the uncertainty of the outcome. Mediation is an option where an independent party facilitates informal meetings to help you achieve a mutually satisfactory agreement in a non-adversarial atmosphere.
Another method of alternative dispute resolution used in West Virginia divorces is Collaborative Practice, which uses a team approach consisting of financial, legal, and mental health professionals to craft a marital settlement outside of the litigation process.
Property and Debt Distribution
Like most other states, West Virginia uses equitable distribution in dividing your marital property. This is a flexible approach used by the court to divide your assets and debts in an equitable fashion rather than simply giving each party half. The factors used by the court include assessing each party's health, income, needs, employability, finances, child custody arrangements, tax consequences, and labor provided by a party that increased the earning potential of the other.
Changing Your Name
If you want to change your last name back to your maiden name, you can include a provision in your final decree to that effect. You will use your divorce decree to notify the department of motor vehicles, Social Security Administration, post office, schools, passport office, banks, insurance agencies, registrar of voters, and public assistance agencies.
Speak to a West Virginia Divorce Lawyer
A divorce consists of many different issues and areas of the law. Legal advice or representation is often essential to protect your interests and assets. A divorce lawyer can explain the legal ramifications of your divorce and whether alternative dispute methods may be best for you.