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§48-9-206. Allocation of custodial responsibility.

(a) Unless otherwise resolved by agreement of the parents under §48-9-201 of this code or unless harmful to the child, the court shall allocate custodial responsibility so that, except to the extent required under §48-9-209 of this code, the custodial time the child spends with each parent may be expected to achieve any of the following objectives:

(1) To permit the child to have a meaningful relationship with each parent who has performed a reasonable share of parenting functions;

(2) To accommodate, if the court determines it is in the best interests of the child, the firm and reasonable preferences of a child who is 14 years of age or older; and to accommodate, if the court determines it is in the best interests of the child, the firm and reasonable preferences of a child under 14 years of age, but sufficiently matured that he or she can intelligently express a voluntary preference for one parent;

(3) To keep siblings together when the court finds that doing so is necessary to their welfare;

(4) To protect the child’s welfare when, under an otherwise appropriate allocation, the child would be harmed because of a gross disparity in the quality of the emotional attachments between each parent and the child, or in each parent’s demonstrated ability or availability to meet a child’s needs;

(5) To take into account any prior agreement of the parents that, under the circumstances as a whole, including the reasonable expectations of the parents in the interest of the child, would be appropriate to consider;

(6) To avoid an allocation of custodial responsibility that would be extremely impractical or that would interfere substantially with the child’s need for stability in light of economic, physical, or other circumstances, including the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, the parents’ and child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;

(7) To apply the principles set forth in §48-9-403(d) of this code if one parent relocates or proposes to relocate at a distance that will impair the ability of a parent to exercise the amount of custodial responsibility that would otherwise be ordered under this section;

(8) To consider the stage of a child’s development; and

(9) To consider which parent will encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including which parent is more likely to keep the other parent involved in the child’s life and activities.

 (b) The court may consider the allocation of custodial responsibility arising from temporary agreements made by the parties after separation if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such agreements were consensual.  The court shall afford those temporary consensual agreements the weight the court believes the agreements are entitled to receive, based upon the evidence.  The court may not consider the temporary allocation of custodial responsibility imposed by a court order on the parties.

(c) If the court is unable to allocate custodial responsibility under §48-9-206(a) of this code because the allocation under §48-9-206(a) of this code would be harmful to the child, or because there is no history of past performance of caretaking functions, as in the case of a newborn, or because the history does not establish a pattern of caretaking sufficiently dispositive of the issues of the case, the court shall allocate custodial responsibility based on the child’s best interest, taking into account the factors in considerations that are set forth in this section and in §48-9-209 and §48-9-403(d) of this code and preserving to the extent possible this section’s priority on the share of past caretaking functions each parent performed.

(d) In determining how to schedule the custodial time allocated to each parent, the court shall take account of the economic, physical, and other practical circumstances such as those listed in §48-9-206(a)(6) of this code.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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