Dissolution of marriage, or absolute divorce, in West Virginia officially starts when one of the spouses submits all the legal papers to the court and completes all the required stages. They may include paying the filing fees, notifying the other party about the proceeding, and having them sign the papers. These documents can be obtained in a few ways, such as through online divorce companies that we will discuss in a few moments.
Affordable Ways to Get Divorce Papers
Legal services have traditionally been very costly, even for paperwork for a marriage dissolution where the couple resolved their conflicts and wanted to part amicably. In this case, they can decide to proceed without an attorney and get their papers from other sources.
The two most inexpensive ways to get the documents are either preparing them yourself or using online services. DIY options can be complicated for people without knowledge of the legal system and can take a lot of time.
As for online services, they offer to help their clients complete divorce online fast and for a moderate price. It means that they generate a full packet of state-specific papers needed to start a divorce process. Sometimes, the service also includes filing on behalf of a client and serving the documents on the other spouse.
Benefits of Online Divorce Services
Couples who decide to apply for divorce services can save a lot of money on lawyers and time looking for court-approved forms. Divorce over the Internet in the sense of obtaining legal papers for marriage dissolution has many advantages.
- Convenience. The process is entirely web-based and can be done without leaving home or in the office as long as there is an Internet connection.
- A fast result. Many websites offer quick documents preparation, usually taking two business days after all preliminary stages have been completed. Online documentation for uncontested cases takes much less time than the same process for contested or DIY cases.
- Low cost. Compared to lawyer’s fees (around $350 an hour), a one-time fee for a complete ready-to-file packet of documents looks more than attractive.
How to Start the Divorce Process in West Virginia?
There are a few conditions before getting a divorce in West Virginia. They include compliance with the state residency requirements and indicating a reason for ending a marriage, called the grounds – more on those below.
West Virginia has specific conditions for the residency of each married couple filing for divorce. There are two options. If the marriage was performed outside of West Virginia, one of the spouses (either a petitioner or a respondent) must have lived in the state for at least one year before the case goes to court. If they married within the state, there is no waiting period on the condition that one of the spouses currently lives in West Virginia.
The petitioner also needs to choose the court where they will file their case. For example, under West Virginia law, if the respondent lives in another state, a petitioner can file the documents in the county where the couple last lived together or where the petitioner lived. Otherwise, the case should be filed in the county where the respondent resides.
A couple can fill out an application for divorce online only if they meet the residency requirements described above.
Grounds for divorce in West Virginia
There are nine official reasons for ending a marriage in West Virginia. They include no-fault and fault-based ones. No-fault grounds do not require the filing spouse to provide any proof, while fault-based reasons need valid evidence.
Fault-based grounds include:
- Cruel treatment;
- Desertion for six months;
- Felony conviction
- Drunkenness and substance abuse;
- Abuse (mental or physical injury) or neglect of a child.
No-fault causes approved by the courts are called “irreconcilable differences” and “voluntary separation.” Therefore, if the parties decide to have an uncontested divorce, they need to state these grounds in their petition.
They also must conclude and file a settlement agreement with provisions on the property division, child and spousal support, and child custody. The court can modify, approve, or reject this agreement if it is unfair or harmful to any parties.
Alimony and child support
The legal paperwork provided by Internet divorce companies will also include provisions about alimony and child support. Spousal support in West Virginia can be of four types:
- Spousal support in gross (WV Code § 48-8-101).
A spouse with support obligation can pay alimony either as a lump sum or periodic payments using their income or separate estate.
The child support obligation is calculated according to the combined gross income of both parents and the number of children that need financial support.
The couples who proceed with a DIY divorce should decide on child custody arrangements in their settlement agreement. These provisions should be in the best interest of their children, or else the judge will not approve them. As a rule, a child should have enough time with each parent to have a meaningful relationship with them both. The judge will also look at how the agreement ensures a stable environment, health, educational needs, etc. (WV Code § 48-9-206).
The division of property in West Virginia lies on the principle of equitability. It roughly means that the marital assets and debts acquired after the wedding are divided fairly between the spouses. However, West Virginia law also distinguishes separate property of each party. It includes, for instance, everything acquired before the wedding or during the marriage in exchange for separate estate or by gift (WV Code § 48-1-237).
The Cost of Web Divorce Services in West Virginia
The cost of divorce in West Virginia depends on its type and complexity. When a married couple can resolve their differences outside of court, their price tag won’t exceed a few thousand dollars. If they choose a do-it-yourself option without hiring a lawyer, the cost could be even lower. The services of an average website for online papers preparation range from $140-$1,500, depending on the deal and services used.
For comparison, the cost of a contested divorce without children would start from $6,000. Couples with uncontested cases and no minor children would pay $3,000 and an additional $1,000 for a settlement agreement preparation.