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West Virginia Family Law on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can break up a marriage and serve as grounds for a divorce in some states. In West Virginia, the abuse of a child or of one of the parties to the marriage can provide the grounds to legally dissolve the marriage. This article provides an overview of West Virginia's domestic violence laws and briefly outlines how acts of domestic abuse can affect divorce proceedings and child custody.

West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

Code Section

West Virginia Code section 48-27-202: Domestic Violence

Definition of "Domestic Violence"

Domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between "family or household members":
  • Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing physical harm to another
  • Placing another in reasonable apprehension of physical harm
  • Creating fear of physical harm by harassment, stalking, psychologically abuse or threatening acts
  • Committing either sexual assault or sexual abuse, or
  • Holding, confining, detaining or abducting another person against that person's will

Definition of "Family or Household Members"


A family or household members can only be people who:
  • Are or were married to each other
  • Are or were living together as spouses
  • Are or were sexual partners
  • Are or were dating
  • Are or were residing together in the same household
  • Have a child in common, or
  • Have a close familial relationship such as a parent, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, or uncle (for the complete list see section 48-27-204)

Domestic Violence Protection During Divorce Proceedings

In West Virginia, during a divorce proceeding the court may order a protective order if one party has abused the other. These protective orders can enjoin the offending party from:

  • Entering the school, business, or work of the other party for the purpose of harassment
  • Contacting the other party, in person or by telephone, for the purpose of harassment, or
  • Harassing or verbally abusing the other in a public place

Child Custody and Domestic Violence

When a family law court in West Virginia finds that a child has been abused or neglected, a permanency plan will be put in place. If the court finds that there isn't a reasonable likelihood that the conditions of abuse can be substantially corrected in the near future, then the abusive parent's parental rights may be terminated. This is a fairly drastic step, and will only be taken if doing so is necessary for the welfare of the child.

In these situations, the non-abusing parent may be award the permanent and sole custody of the child after the court takes into consideration the child's need for continuity of care, the amount of time required for the child to be integrated into a stable and permanent home environment, and other factors that the court considers to be necessary and proper. For more information see section 49-6-5.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding West Virginia's family law on domestic violence contact a local family law lawyer or criminal defense attorney.

If you or someone you know is a domestic violence survivor there is help available to you. During an emergency dial 911 and when you're safe contact the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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