The People’s Lawyer

What role does fault play in West Virginia divorces?

by | Jul 5, 2021 | Family Law

Some marriages end amicably, with both parties willing to set aside their differences and collaborate to negotiate a mutually beneficial divorce agreement. Other times, one party initiates the divorce in response to the bad acts of the other – such as infidelity, abuse or neglect. These divorces are often not as simple and straightforward as collaborative divorces are. If you decide to begin divorce proceedings because of your spouse’s misconduct, will that have an effect on the child custody award, spousal support and property division?

Fault as grounds for divorce

West Virginia law recognizes no-fault divorce as well as various forms of divorce for cause. If both spouses agree that there are irreconcilable differences that make their marriage irretrievable, they can separate. In addition, one party can initiate a divorce on grounds of the misconduct of the other spouse.

In other words, in a West Virginia divorce court, fault may matter when the court is deciding whether to grant the divorce or not. But once the court gets to the nitty gritty of property division, spousal maintenance and so forth, the rules change.

Fault and the terms of a divorce decree

The law specifically forbids divorce courts from considering fault when determining how to split up marital assets. Instead, the court follows a system where they initially presume that the marital property should be divided equally, and then adjust each spouse’s portion according to factors such as their earning capacity, education, needs and so forth – without taking into consideration who was allegedly responsible for the marriage ending.

When it comes to spousal support and child support, however, the court may consider fault. They can take into consideration if the breakup of your marriage was caused by your ex-spouse’s misconduct, and adjust your spousal support award accordingly.

Divorce is often unpredictable, and there’s no way of knowing beforehand exactly how a court will rule on specific issues. But at least you can know when a court will take marital misconduct into account, so that you can prepare for what’s to come in your divorce proceedings.