Child Custody Lawyers
We help West Virginia families through difficult decisions
When a divorce, annulment, legal separation, or breakup involves children, the decisions involved become substantially more complicated. The court not only needs to decide where the children will live, but also how property and funds will be allocated to provide for the interests of the children. Child custody cases can be legally complex and emotionally trying, and often, the children themselves are caught in the crossfire between their parents.
At Klie Law Offices, we understand that our clients need compassion and experience on their side throughout each child custody case. Our team will consider all aspects of your family’s situation needs and help you create a legal strategy that will serve your interests as well as your children’s. If you’re considering a divorce or legal separation with children, or need help with modification or enforcement of an existing child custody order, contact us today.
Types of child custody arrangements in West Virginia
As a rule, West Virginia courts prefer to use shared parenting arrangements rather than awarding sole custody to one parent. Two types of shared parenting exist:
- Under a basic shared parenting arrangement, one parent keeps the child or children overnight for less than 35 percent of the year, meaning the children spend the majority of the year with the other parent.
- Under extended shared parenting, each parent keeps the child or children overnight for 35 percent of the year or more. In other words, this is a roughly equal distribution of time between the two parents.
In either sort of shared parenting, both parents are expected to contribute to the child or children’s expenses.
Note that child custody is related to but distinct from child support. The child support award will be based in part on the amount of time each child spends with each parent.
How West Virginia courts determine child custody
Whenever possible, family courts in West Virginia encourage parents to create a custody and visitation plan themselves before asking a judge to decide. A proposed parenting plan should include significant contact with each parent, account for the child’s activities – such as school, extracurricular activities and religion – and provide some means for resolving disputes between the parents. Courts will generally accept a proposed plan if it covers all those bases and isn’t obviously unfair to one side.
If the parents are unable or unwilling to work out an agreement acceptable to the court, a judge will make a custody decision. West Virginia courts use the best interests of the child standard. The law also instructs the court to presume that a 50/50 split is in the interests of the child, but that’s just a presumption – think of it as a starting point. There are several factors that can change this determination, including:
- The parent’s and child’s schedule, and the logistics of travel between their homes.
- The child’s educational, medical, and extracurricular needs.
- The safety and stability of each parent’s home.
- The child’s relationships with siblings, half-siblings, and stepsiblings.
- The child’s stated preference, if the child is at least age 14, or under 14 but still mature enough to express a reasonable preference.
Modifications and enforcement of child custody decrees
Once a child custody arrangement is reached – whether negotiated between the parties and approved by a judge, or decided by a judge – it’s binding on both parties. If your co-parent is failing to comply with the terms of the child custody order, such as not following the visitation schedule, we can take steps to enforce the court order and potentially hold them in contempt of court. We also have experience defending against enforcement actions if you are falsely accused of failure to comply.
Sometimes, child custody arrangements need to change because the needs of the children or the circumstances of the parents change. In those situations, you need to petition the court for a modification of the child custody order. An experienced family law attorney can help you with the modification process and ensure that your family’s changing needs are met.
Our attorneys can help with your child custody case
Because every family’s situation is unique, you’ll need an attorney who will pay attention to your individual circumstances to help you through a child custody case. At Klie Law Offices, we can assist with every aspect of your case, from working out a shared parenting agreement that the court will approve to representing you before a judge. We’ll put our extensive experience to work for you.
You can’t afford to wait to get the help you need with your child custody case. Contact us online or give us a call today to schedule your case evaluation with a West Virginia child custody lawyer.