Before 2000, West Virginia had no Family Courts. Due to the volume and sensitive nature of these cases, the Legislature decided to split Family Courts off into a separate entity. West Virginia now has 27 Family Court circuits with 47 Family Court judges presiding.
The types of cases heard in Family Court are all domestic relations cases including annulment, marriages, divorce, legal separation, alimony, paternity, termination of parental rights, child support, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence petitions, guardianship, grandparent visitation, child in need of services (CHINS), juvenile delinquency, emancipation of minors, name changes and adoptions.
Family Court judges used to be appointed by the Governor, but now they are elected in non-partisan elections. They first serve a six-year term and then if re-elected they will serve eight-year terms.
West Virginia’s Judiciary website is full of resources for patrons of Family Court. They have a section with complete bios and photographs of each Family Court judge. They also offer Family Court GAL training, Family Court statistical data, workload studies, and they also provide mediation services as an alternative to divorce. They even have a list of qualified mediators and a list of guardians on the site. They provide support for domestic violence victims, information on the appellate procedure for Family Court cases and other services for families in crisis. Additionally, the website has forms for filing cases in Family Court, the Family Court Rules, Domestic Violence Rules, and a separate section for domestic violence forms. Patrons of Family Court can file in person using the forms on the website or using the e-filing portal.
For the last year calculated, Family Courts saw 26,022 cases. Of that total, 9,444 were for divorces, 11,464 were for domestic violence, and 5,114 were for other domestic relations cases. The Family Court judges also performed 1,044 marriages during that same year.