West Virginia Family Court Records
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What are West Virginia Family Court Records?
West Virginia family court records are official documents detailing cases heard by West Virginia family courts as well as the court’s litigation processes. These records are primarily generated by the court clerks of various family courts and are designed to contain general court case information including details of court actions, filed motions, court orders, judgments, decrees court-issued rights as well as penalties ascribed to offenders. While these records can be provided to interested people upon request, the right of public access to West Virginia family court records is not absolute. As such, the eligibility requirements for accessing family court records generally varies depending on the requested record(s) and the judicial district where the case was heard.
What Cases are Heard by West Virginia Family Courts?
The West Virginia judicial system operates as a four-tier pyramid system consisting of the state Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, Family Courts, and Magistrate Courts. The Supreme Court serves as the state’s highest court, and the court of last resort exercising jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters of the state. Authority-wise, circuit courts are the state’s second-highest courts, and family courts are next on the pyramid and are tasked with hearing disputes pertaining to children and families. Examples of cases heard by West Virginia family courts include:
- Cases pertaining to child adoption, custody and/or child visitation
- Matters relating to marriages, divorces, separation, and annulment
- Alimony/spousal support and child support cases
- Domestic abuse/assault
- Guardianship, minor emancipation, and related interventions
- Cases relating to wills, trusts and domestic financial rights and settlements
According to West Virginia’s court system, family/domestic matters are entertained by any one of the family courts in the twenty-seven circuits of the state. Where the participants are unsatisfied with the court’s verdict, family cases can be appealed to the state circuit courts or the Supreme Court depending on the case type. However, all judgments issued by the circuit court may also be appealed to the Supreme Court, while the verdict of S.C is final and cannot be challenged.
What is Included in West Virginia Family Court Records?
Family court records are generally designed to contain court case information. As such, these records are typically unique to each case and the judicial district where the case was heard. Thus, West Virginia family court records offer an objective account of the litigation processes of the state’s family courts, they often feature details of the case or right(s) in dispute, as well as the personal information of the parties involved, the place and date the suit was originality filed and other relevant documents including evidence filed by either party, court actions and motions, motion arguments and witness statements/court appearances.
In addition, family court records contain information regarding the court’s final verdict pertaining to the case as well as the conditions of any court-approved settlements or rights. Details of alimony settlements, spousal and child support as well as child custody, visitation or adoption rights are also indicated. If the court’s original judgment is appealed to a higher court, details of the revised verdict are also included in the court record by the appellate court.
Are Family Court Records Public in West Virginia?
In accordance with West Virginia’s public record laws, family court records are generated and issued by the various court clerks of the state’s family courts. The clerks serve as the state’s record custodians and are tasked with providing access to all records which have been deemed public by state statutes or authorized for release by court order. However, following West Virginia’s privacy laws, and may not be made available to requestors unless authorized by a court. Confidential court records include:
- Adoption records and documents filed child protective services and related institutions
- Identifying information about domestic violence/assault victim
- Records containing the personal and contact information of a minor or juvenile
- Records pertaining to parental rights, guardianship records, minor emancipation record
- Income tax returns and documents detailing the financial status or property inventory of selected persons
- Psychological and mental health evaluations filed as evidence or part of witness statements
To access the aforementioned family court records, the requesting party must receive legal authorization in the form of a court order or subpoena from a West Virginia Judge.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in West Virginia?
The state of West Virginia provides a variety of channels through which family court records can be accessed. However, the protocol for accessing these records depends primarily on the case and the record custodian. Generally, West Virginia family court records can be accessed by interested and eligible persons through state or third party-operated online repositories, public terminals available in various courthouses across the state or by making mail-in requests to the record custodian.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and West Virginia divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How to Obtain West Virginia Family Court Records Online
The West Virginia state judiciary provides a variety of online resources with which interested members of the public can access family court records remotely or in various state courthouses. While the state’s judicial districts maintain online repositories featuring records generated locally, the WV CourtPlus initiative serves as the state’s central database for circuit courts throughout the state, allowing interested members of the public access to statewide case information.
In order to access court records on the West Virginia E-Filing, interested persons are required to register an account by providing their personal information and valid email address on the registration page of the portal. Using the login information obtained, users can search the online database for the record of interest using the names of the parties involved, the case file number of the record or the name/state bar number of the attorneys representing either party.
How to Make in-person Requests for West Virginia Family Records
West Virginia family court records can also be obtained by making in-person queries to the office of the court clerk in the courthouse where the case was heard. This is especially recommended for persons interested in obtaining full court case information. Given the state’s restriction on electronically accessible records, all confidential or sealed court case information can only be accessed by making in-person requests to the record custodian. To request a record, interested persons are required to:
Locate the Record Custodian
Pursuant to West Virginia public record laws, all court records are generated and maintained by the court clerk of the court where a case is heard. As such, most family court records are primarily managed and disseminated by the court clerk of the states various family courts
To obtain a record of interest, the requesting party must confirm the judicial district in which the case was heard, and locate the record custodian. The location of a family court record is best determined by considering the location in which the suit was filed, and the most current status of the case. Essentially, while the records of court cases which have been concluded are typically maintained by the clerk of the presiding court, records of cases that have been appealed to a higher court may also be maintained by the administrative arm of the appellate court. To obtain information regarding court locations and contact details, interested persons may search the WV judiciary county map.
Prepare the Requirements
Upon confirming the location of the record custodian, requestors are advised to inquire about any unique record retrieval processes for the judicial district where the case was filed/heard
Typically, the requesting party is expected to provide the information required to facilitate the record search that must be provided by the requestor. This includes the personal information of the plaintiff/defendant as well as the case, number, docket number or appellate file number of the record. The names of the litigants and details of the filing, and their respective state bar numbers may also be required. Where the record is confidential, the requestor will be required to obtain the required legal authorization for accessing the record of interest.
Make the Request
While record requests may be made during general office hours, requestors are advised to schedule their visit to the courthouse beforehand. In addition to general case information, the requesting party may also be required to present a government-issued photo ID or other forms of identification in order to confirm the eligibility of the requestor. Most record custodians also charge a standard search/copy fee depending on the record requested and the copies required.
How to Access West Virginia Family Court Records via Mail
The West Virginia state judiciary also allows interested persons to request and obtain family court records via U.S. mail. This requires sending a written query to the record custodian via mail. The requesting party is required to include:
- The full name of the parties involved
- General court case information
- The case file number, docket number or appellate file number of the record
- Details of the suit including the place and date it was filed
- The legal representatives of either party.
- The name and contact information of the requesting party
Generally, the written record request must be accompanied by a cheque or money order payment of any applicable fees as well as a copy of the requestors government-issued photo ID and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Additional information regarding any unique requirements of the judicial districts may be obtained by contacting the office of the clerk of courts before making the request.
How Do I Access Sealed Family Court Records in West Virginia?
Family court records that are sealed by court order may be made available to eligible persons if the record is proven relevant for legal purposes or making financial claims. To obtain a sealed record, the interested party must challenge the record’s confidentiality by petitioning a West Virginia licensed judge. Eligible requestors will be issued a court order authorizing their access to the record of interest.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
Specialized Family Court Records
In addition to maintaining records of trial transcripts, West Virginia Family courts maintain a variety of court decrees and documents. These documents provide legal proof of a variety of court-issued rights and decrees including annulment, separation, and divorce, alimony and child support, adoption and child custody as well as authorization for will and trust fund execution. Like court records, some of these documents may be made available to interested and eligible persons.
How to Obtain West Virginia Adoption Records
Pursuant to West Virginia state laws, adoption records are restricted from public access. However, adoptees who are 18 or older, birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptive siblings of adult adoptees are eligible to obtain non-identifying information of the adoptee. This can be requested from the West Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics. However, if identifying information is required, eligible persons may contact West Virginia Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry. However, access to some information may require a court-issued subpoena authorizing the requestor’s access.
The West Virginia Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry can be contacted at:
350 Capitol Street
Bureau for Children & Families, Children & Adult Services
Charleston, West Virginia 25301
Phone: (304) 558–7980
How Do I Access Divorce Records in West Virginia?
West Virginia divorce records are primarily maintained and disseminated by the court clerk of the court which granted the divorce. These records are deemed public information and can be accessed by interested members of the public upon request.
To obtain a divorce court record, the requesting party must verify the judicial district and court where the divorce was granted and obtain the applicable court contact information using the family court circuit map available on the WV judiciary website. Requestors may then proceed to request the desired record in person, via mail or online.
Typically, the requesting party will be required to provide information relevant to facilitating the record search. This includes the full names of the parties involved, the place and date where the divorce occurred and the case file number of the record (if known). In addition, requesters may be required to cover the cost of copying and certification (if applicable). Where the record has been deemed confidential or sealed on request from the record subject or the court, requestors may also be required to obtain written permissions from the subject of the record and/or a court order authorizing the release of the record.