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Child custody laws in West Virginia

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2022 | Child Custody

When divorce, legal separation or annulment involves children, the decisions involved can be some of the most complex and emotional to make. Many times, parents can work together to devise a parenting plan on their own. However, if they are unable to do so, the West Virginia family court will make custody determinations based on what is in the best interest of the child.

Best Interests of Child Protection Act of 2022

A new bill that the senate recently passed requires judges in West Virginia family courts to presume that equal custodial allocation is in the child’s best interest before looking into other unique factors that might change their decision. This law is meant to equalize the playing field for mothers and fathers during child custody determinations.

Other factors that the court might consider include:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents
  • The wishes of the child if the judge deems them old enough to have a reasonable preference
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with their parents, siblings and any other significant people in their lives
  • Which parent is more likely to allow frequent and continuing contact between the child and the noncustodial parent

If the judge deems one parent unfit or a danger to their child, they may award sole custody to the other parent. In these instances, the court will look at factors such as whether the parent has a history of:

  • Abuse or violence
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Mental health conditions
  • Criminal behavior

There’s an option to change or modify the child custody order if either parent has experienced a significant change in their circumstances. For instance, if one parent gets a new job that requires them to relocate, remarries or goes to prison. Just as with the original order, the court will evaluate how this change affects the best interests of the child.

If either parent fails to adhere to the terms of the child custody order, the other parent can file a contempt of court action. This is a formal legal process in which the court can order the noncompliant parent to take specific actions or face penalties, such as fines or jail time. In some cases, the court may modify the custody arrangement if one parent consistently violates the terms of the agreement.