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WEST VIRGINIA CODE

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CHAPTER 48. DOMESTIC RELATIONS.

ARTICLE 11. SUPPORT OF CHILDREN.

§48-11-101. General provisions relating to child support.

(a) It is one of the purposes of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to improve and facilitate support enforcement efforts in this state, with the primary goal being to establish and enforce reasonable child support orders and thereby improve opportunities for children. It is the intent of the Legislature that to the extent practicable, the laws of this state should encourage and require a child's parents to meet the obligation of providing that child with adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, and health and child care.

(b) When the domestic relations action involves a minor child or children, the court shall require either party to pay child support in the form of periodic installments for the maintenance of the minor children of the parties in accordance with support guidelines promulgated pursuant to article 13-101, et seq., of this chapter. Payments of child support are to be ordinarily made from a party's income, but in cases when the income is not sufficient to adequately provide for those payments, the court may, upon specific findings set forth in the order, order the party required to make those payments to make them from the corpus of his or her separate estate.

§48-11-102. Required information in support orders.

(a) Any order which provides for the custody or support of a minor child shall include:

(1) The name of the custodian;

(2) The amount of the support payments;

(3) The date the first payment is due;

(4) The frequency of the support payments;

(5) The event or events which trigger termination of the support obligation;

(6) A provision regarding wage withholding;

(7) The address where payments shall be sent;

(8) A provision for medical support;

(9) When child support guidelines are not followed, a specific written finding pursuant to section 13-702.

(b) Effective October 1, 1999, any order entered that provides for the payment of child support shall also include a statement that requires both parties to report any changes in gross income, either in source of employment or in the amount of gross income, to the Bureau for Child Support enforcement and to the other party. The notice shall not be required if the change in gross income is less than a fifteen percent change in gross income.

(c) All child support orders shall contain a notice which contains language substantially similar to the following: "The amount of the monthly child support can be modified as provided by law based upon a change in the financial or other circumstances of the parties if those circumstances are among those considered in the child support formula. In order to make the modification a party must file a motion to modify the child support amount. Unless a motion to modify is filed, the child support amount will continue to be due and cannot later be changed retroactively even though there has been a change of circumstances since the entry of the order. Self help forms for modification can be found at the circuit clerk's office." The failure of an order to have such a provision does not alter the effectiveness of the order.

§48-11-103. Child support beyond age eighteen.

(a) An order for child support shall provide that payments of such support continue beyond the date when the child reaches the age of eighteen, so long as the child is unmarried and residing with a parent, guardian or custodian and is enrolled as a full-time student in a secondary educational or vocational program and making substantial progress towards a diploma: Provided, That such payments may not extend past the date that the child reaches the age of twenty.

(b) Nothing herein shall be construed to abrogate or modify existing case law regarding the eligibility of handicapped or disabled children to receive child support beyond the age of eighteen.

(c) The reenactment of this section during the 1994 regular session of the Legislature shall not, by operation of law, have any effect upon or vacate any order or portion thereof entered under the prior enactment of this section which awarded educational and related expenses for an adult child accepted or enrolled and making satisfactory progress in an educational program at a certified or accredited college. Any such order or portion thereof shall continue in full force and effect until the court, upon motion of a party, modifies or vacates the order upon a finding that:

(1) The facts and circumstances which supported the entry of the original order have changed, in which case the order may be modified;

(2) The facts and circumstances which supported the entry of the original order no longer exist because the child has not been accepted or is not enrolled in and making satisfactory progress in an educational program at a certified or accredited college or the parent ordered to pay such educational and related expenses is no longer able to make such payments, in which case the order shall be vacated;

(3) The child, at the time the order was entered, was under the age of sixteen years, in which case the order shall be vacated;

(4) The amount ordered to be paid was determined by an application of child support guidelines in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred one, article thirteen, et seq., of this chapter, or legislative rules promulgated thereunder, in which case the order may be modified or vacated; or

(5) The order was entered after March 14, 1994, in which case the order shall be vacated.

§48-11-104. Payments out of disposable retired or retainer pay.

Whenever under the terms of article 5-601, et seq., or article 5-501, et seq., a court enters an order requiring the payment of child support, if the court anticipates the payment of such child support or any portion thereof to be paid out of "disposable retired or retainer pay" as that term is defined in 10 U.S.C. §1408, relating to members or former members of the uniformed services of the United States, the court shall specifically provide for the payment of an amount, expressed in dollars or as a percentage of disposable retired or retainer pay, from the disposable retired or retainer pay of the payor party to the payee party.

§48-11-105. Modification of child support order.

(a) The court may modify a child support order, for the benefit of the child, when a motion is made that alleges a change in the circumstances of a parent or another proper person or persons. A motion for modification of a child support order may be brought by a custodial parent or any other lawful custodian or guardian of the child, by a parent or other person obligated to pay child support for the child or by the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement of the Department of Health and Human Resources of this state.

(b) The provisions of the order may be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. If application of the guideline would result in a new order that is more than fifteen percent different, then the circumstances are considered a substantial change.

(c) An order that modifies the amount of child support to be paid shall conform to the support guidelines set forth in section one hundred one, article thirteen, et seq., of this chapter unless the court disregards the guidelines or adjusts the award as provided in section seven hundred two of said article.

(d) The Supreme Court of Appeals shall make available to the courts a standard form for a petition for modification of an order for support, which form will allege that the existing order should be altered or revised because of a loss or change of employment or other substantial change affecting income or that the amount of support required to be aid is not within fifteen percent of the child support guidelines. The clerk of the circuit court and the secretary-clerk of the family court shall make the forms available to persons desiring to represent themselves in filing a motion for modification of the support award.

(e) Upon entry of an order modifying a child support amount the court shall, no later than five days from entry of the order, provide a copy of the modified order to the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement. If an overpayment to one of the parties occurs as a result of the modified terms of the order, funds properly withheld by the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement pursuant the terms of the original order shall not be returned until such time as the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement receives repayment from the party in possession of the overpayment.

§48-11-106. Expedited process for modification.

 (a) An expedited process for modification of a child support order may be utilized if:

(1) Either parent experiences a substantial change of circumstances resulting in a decrease in income due to loss of employment or other involuntary cause;

(2) An increase in income due to promotion, change in employment or reemployment;

(3) Other such change in employment status; or

(4) If a military parent is called to military service.

(b) The party seeking the recalculation of support and modification of the support order shall file a description of the decrease or increase in income and an explanation of the cause of the decrease or increase on a standardized form to be provided by the secretary-clerk or other employee of the family court. The standardized form shall be verified by the filing party. Any available documentary evidence shall be filed with the standardized form. Based upon the filing and information available in the case record, the amount of support shall be tentatively recalculated.

(c) The secretary-clerk shall serve a notice of the filing, a copy of the standardized form and the support calculations upon the other party by certified mail, return receipt requested, with delivery restricted to the addressee, in accordance with rule 4(d)(1)(D) of the West Virginia rules of civil procedure. The secretary-clerk shall also mail a copy, by first-class mail, to the local office of the Bureau for Child Support enforcement for the county in which the family court is located in the same manner as original process under rule 4(d) of the rules of civil procedure.

(d) The notice shall fix a date fourteen days from the date of mailing and inform the party that unless the recalculation is contested and a hearing request is made on or before the date fixed, the proposed modification will be made effective. If the filing is contested, the proposed modification shall be set for hearing; otherwise, the court shall enter an order for a judgment by default. Either party may move to set aside a judgment by default, pursuant to the provisions of rule 55 or rule 60(b) of the rules of civil procedure.

(e) If an obligor uses the provisions of this section to expeditiously reduce his or her child support obligation, the order that effected the reduction shall also require the obligor to notify the obligee of reemployment, new employment or other such change in employment status that results in an increase in income. If an obligee uses the provisions of this section to expeditiously increase his or her child support obligation, the order that effected the increase shall also require the obligee to notify the obligor of reemployment, new employment or other such change in employment status that results in an increase in income of the obligee.

(f) The Supreme Court of Appeals shall develop the standardized form required by this section.

§48-11-106a. Modification of support order with the assistance of Bureau for Child Support Enforcement.

In addition to any other procedure which may exist by law, any party seeking the recalculation of support and modification under a child support order due to a substantial change in circumstances pursuant to the provisions of section one hundred six of this article may seek and obtain the assistance of the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, pursuant to the procedures established under the provisions of sections two hundred one through two hundred six, inclusive, article eighteen of this chapter, in the preparation, assessment and presentation of an appropriate petition for modification of a support order, including the identification and narrowing of issues associated with a requested recalculation of support prior to filing the petition and the preparation and presentation of an appropriate petition and proposed order for modification for consideration by the family court.

§48-11-107. Modification resulting in reduction and overpayment of support.

In any proceeding filed after January 1, 2001, where a petition to modify child support is granted which results in a reduction of child support owed so that the obligor has overpaid child support, the court shall grant a decretal judgment to the obligor for the amount of the overpayment. The court shall inquire as to whether a support arrearage was owed by the obligor for support due prior to the filing of the petition for modification. If an arrearage exists, the court shall order an offset of the overpayment against the child support arrearages. If no prior arrearage exists or if the arrearage is not sufficient to offset the overpayment, then the court may direct the Bureau for Child Support enforcement to collect the overpayment through income withholding, if the person has, in the court's opinion, sufficient income other than the child support received. The income withholding shall be in all respects as provided for in part 14-401, et seq., except that in no circumstances may the amount withheld exceed thirty-five percent of the disposable earnings for the period, regardless of the length of time that the overpayment has been owed.

§48-11-108. Modification of support based on military service.

(a) If a military parent is called to military service, either parent may file a notice of activation of military service and a request for an expedited modification of a support order pursuant to section one hundred six of this article. In the petition, the parent must cite the basis for modifying the support order and the military parent's change in financial circumstances supporting the petition.

(b) The court shall temporarily modify the amount of child support for the duration of the military parent's military service pursuant to the provisions of section fifteen of this article if there is a substantial change in circumstances based upon changes in income and earning capacity of the military parent during military service. An increase or decrease in income or earning capacity of a military parent due to military service may only be used to calculate support during the period of military service and must not be considered a permanent increase or decrease in income or earning capacity. The effective date for a temporary modification must be the date the military parent begins military service.

(c) Upon return from military service, the military parent's child support obligation prior to a temporary modification is automatically reinstated, effective on the date the military parent is released from service. Within ninety days of the military parent's release from service, either parent may make a request for a modification of child support to correspond to a change in the military parent's nonservice related income or earning capacity. A modification of child support must be based solely upon the income or earning capacity the military parent has following his or her period of military service.

PART IV. MODIFICATION OF PARENTING PLAN.

§48-11-401. Modification upon showing of changed circumstances or harm.

(a) Except as provided in section four hundred two or four hundred three of this article, a court shall modify a parenting plan order if it finds, on the basis of facts that were not known or have arisen since the entry of the prior order and were not anticipated therein, that a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or of one or both parents and a modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.

(b) In exceptional circumstances, a court may modify a parenting plan if it finds that the plan is not working as contemplated and in some specific way is manifestly harmful to the child, even if a substantial change of circumstances has not occurred.

(c) Unless the parents have agreed otherwise, the following circumstances do not justify a significant modification of a parenting plan except where harm to the child is shown:

(1) Circumstances resulting in an involuntary loss of income, by loss of employment or otherwise, affecting the parent's economic status;

(2) A parent's remarriage or cohabitation; and

(3) Choice of reasonable caretaking arrangements for the child by a legal parent, including the child's placement in day care.

(d) For purposes of subsection (a) of this section, the occurrence or worsening of a limiting factor, as defined in subsection (a), section two hundred nine of this article, after a parenting plan has been ordered by the court, constitutes a substantial change of circumstances and measures shall be ordered pursuant to section two hundred nine of this article to protect the child or the child's parent.

§48-11-402. Modification without showing of changed circumstances.

(a) The court shall modify a parenting plan in accordance with a parenting agreement, unless it finds that the agreement is not knowing and voluntary or that it would be harmful to the child.

(b) The court may modify any provisions of the parenting plan without the showing of change circumstances required by subsection (a), section four hundred one of this article if the modification is in the child's best interests, and the modification:

(1) Reflects the de facto arrangements under which the child has been receiving care from the petitioner, without objection, in substantial deviation from the parenting plan, for the preceding six months before the petition for modification is filed, provided the arrangement is not the result of a parent's acquiescence resulting from the other parent's domestic abuse;

(2) Constitutes a minor modification in the plan; or

(3) Is necessary to accommodate the reasonable and firm preferences of a child who has attained the age of fourteen.

(c) Evidence of repeated filings of fraudulent reports of domestic violence or child abuse is admissible in a domestic relations action between the involved parties when the allocation of custodial responsibilities is in issue, and the fraudulent accusations may be a factor considered by the court in making the allocation of custodial responsibilities.

§48-11-403. Relocation of a parent.

(a) The relocation of a parent constitutes a substantial change in the circumstances under subsection (a), section four hundred one of this article of the child only when it significantly impairs either parent's ability to exercise responsibilities that the parent has been exercising.

(b) Unless otherwise ordered by the court, a parent who has responsibility under a parenting plan who changes, or intends to change, residences for more than ninety days must give a minimum of sixty days' advance notice, or the most notice practicable under the circumstances, to any other parent with responsibility under the same parenting plan. Notice shall include:

(1) The relocation date;

(2) The address of the intended new residence;

(3) The specific reasons for the proposed relocation;

(4) A proposal for how custodial responsibility shall be modified, in light of the intended move; and

(5) Information for the other parent as to how he or she may respond to the proposed relocation or modification of custodial responsibility.

Failure to comply with the notice requirements of this section without good cause may be a factor in the determination of whether the relocation is in good faith under subsection (d) of this section, and is a basis for an award of reasonable expenses and reasonable attorneys fees to another parent that are attributable to such failure.

The Supreme Court of Appeals shall make available through the offices of the circuit clerks and the family law masters a form notice that complies with the provisions of this subsection. The Supreme Court of Appeals shall promulgate procedural rules that provide for an expedited hearing process to resolve issues arising from a relocation or proposed relocation.

(c) When changed circumstances are shown under subsection (a) of this section, the court shall, if practical, revise the parenting plan so as to both accommodate the relocation and maintain the same proportion of custodial responsibility being exercised by each of the parents. In making such revision, the court may consider the additional costs that a relocation imposes upon the respective parties for transportation and communication, and may equitably allocate such costs between the parties.

(d) When the relocation constituting changed circumstances under subsection (a) of this section renders it impractical to maintain the same proportion of custodial responsibility as that being exercised by each parent, the court shall modify the parenting plan in accordance with the child's best interests and in accordance with the following principles:

(1) A parent who has been exercising a significant majority of the custodial responsibility for the child should be allowed to relocate with the child so long as that parent shows that the relocation is in good faith for a legitimate purpose and to a location that is reasonable in light of the purpose. The percentage of custodial responsibility that constitutes a significant majority of custodial responsibility is seventy percent or more. A relocation is for a legitimate purpose if it is to be close to significant family or other support networks, for significant health reasons, to protect the safety of the child or another member of the child's household from significant risk of harm, to pursue a significant employment or educational opportunity, or to be with one's spouse who is established, or who is pursuing a significant employment or educational opportunity, in another location. The relocating parent has the burden of proving of the legitimacy of any other purpose. A move with a legitimate purpose is reasonable unless its purpose is shown to be substantially achievable without moving, or by moving to a location that is substantially less disruptive of the other parent's relationship to the child.

(2) If a relocation of the parent is in good faith for legitimate purpose and to a location that is reasonable in light of the purpose, and if neither has been exercising a significant majority of custodial responsibility for the child, the court shall reallocate custodial responsibility based on the best interest of the child, taking into account all relevant factors including the effects of the relocation on the child.

(3) If a parent does not establish that the purpose for that parent's relocation is in good faith for a legitimate purpose into a location that is reasonable in light of the purpose, the court may modify the parenting plan in accordance with the child's best interests and the effects of the relocation on the child. Among the modifications the court may consider is a reallocation of primary custodial responsibility, effective if and when the relocation occurs, but such a reallocation shall not be ordered if the relocating parent demonstrates that the child's best interests would be served by the relocation.

(4) The court shall attempt to minimize impairment to a parent-child relationship caused by a parent's relocation through alternative arrangements for the exercise of custodial responsibility appropriate to the parents' resources and circumstances and the developmental level of the child.

(e) In determining the proportion of caretaking functions each parent previously performed for the child under the parenting plan before relocation, the court shall not consider a division of functions arising from any arrangements made after a relocation but before a modification hearing on the issues related to relocation.

(f) In determining the effect of the relocation or proposed relocation on a child, any interviewing or questioning of the child shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of rule 16 of the rules of practice and procedure for family law, as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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