Unlike many states, West Virginia requires that all parties in divorce cases file a financial statement. When the parties agree on how to divide their property, the court reviews the statement to determine whether or not to approve the agreement. When the parties do not have an agreement, the court determines how to divide the property, and how much spousal and child support to order based on the information in the financial statement.
The West Virginia Supreme Court provides a form for all parties to complete. Here are the questions I often hear about this form.
- Why do I have to list all of our property on page 3 of the financial statement?
In West Virginia, you have a legal right to an equitable division of your marital property.. Usually, that means that the property is divided equally. List your marital property and the value on this chart in order to know what the value is of the property to divide.
- What (or who) is the “Petitioner” (P) and “Respondent” (R)? Does it matter?
The petitioner is the person who is going to file the first set of papers for the divorce. In contested cases, the “petitioner” files the papers and has them served on the other party. The petitioner pays the filing fee. Legally, it does not matter which party is the petitioner or respondent. If you are completing the forms together before you file, just select one to be the petitioner and the other to be the respondent.
- What does the M and P and R mean on page 3?
During the divorce, the only property that will be divided is “marital property.” Most property that you own before you were married, or receive as a gift or inheritance is not “marital property.” (Unless you “convert” it to marital property. If you have questions about that, it is best to contact an attorney.)
On the right side of the chart on page 3 is a box you can write “M” beside property that you agree was acquired during the marriage.
If you have separate property or property that you acquired during the marriage, you will write “P” or “R”. If you are filing the Petition, you are the Petitioner, so you will write “P.” If you are filing a Response, you are the Respondent, and you will write “R”.
Remember: this is not how you want the property divided! This chart lists whether or not the property is marital or separate.
- What is the “Market Value”?
On page 3, fill in the “market value.” There are many ways to estimate “market value.”
Your house: If you have a recent appraisal, you can use that amount. If you do not have a recent appraisal, you may contact an appraiser to obtain one. Some people want a lower cost way to estimate the value and either have a relator perform a fair market analysis or rely on Zillow to estimate the value of the house. If a court determines value, the court usually relies on an appraisal.
Your retirement: If you have a retirement account that is a 401K or SEP, you can use the value of the account on your statement. If you have a defined benefit plan, such as a pension, you can obtain the current value by having the present day value calculated by s service such as Troyan.
Household goods: Most of us have a house full of personal belongings ranging from furniture to dishes to sports equipment. Many couples divide the property in half without attributing specific values to the property. Other couples create an XL spread sheet and list the property, value, and identify the party who will keep the property. The value of the property is not what you paid for it, rather the amount that you could sell it for at a yard sale, auction or on craigslist.
Whole life insurance: There are two kinds of life insurance, term and whole. Most people who have insurance through work have term life insurance. You only need to include whole life insurance on the financial statement.
- Do I need to list my debts on page 3 and page 4 of the financial statement?
On page 2, you will list any debt that is secured, such as your vehicle or house. The other debt or debt that is not secured is listed on page 4.
- Which debts do I list?
List all of your debts: credit cards, mortgages, personal loans and student loans. Write down the total amount of the debt.
Check the box if it is a marital debt, or a separate debt—that is the debt of one party or the other. Marital debts are usually those that are acquired during the marriage. Those debts that you had before your marriage are separate debts.
- On page 6, there are a lot of questions about health insurance. Why do I need to fill it out?
This section is important if you have children. You need to determine the amount of the children’s portion of the health insurance. That number is used to calculate child support, so be sure to contact your HR department to get this number if it is not available to you.
- Why do I need to answer questions about my education and health and provide a budget?
The questions on pages 7-10 of the financial statement are most important when one party is seeking spousal support. Developing a budget may also be helpful before attending mediation.
- What if my spouse has the documents that I am required to attach?
Most information is available on-line or from the financial institution or another source. For example, you can get tax returns from the IRS.
If you have any other questions about divorce in West Virginia, our office offers free informational sessions monthly in both Charles Town and Martinsburg.