How to Obtain Court Records in West Virginia
At the lowest level of West Virginia’s judiciary are the municipal courts that handle violations of local ordinances and 158 magistrate courts which handle small claims cases up to $5,000 and misdemeanors. Above these are family courts which deal with juvenile matters like delinquency as well as divorce, child support, and emancipation.
Circuit courts hear appeals of lower court cases and state administrative agencies as well as have jurisdiction over criminal and civil trials above $2,500. Circuit court judges have the option of sending some cases to treatment courts, which divert drug users from the usual criminal justice system. There are 31 circuit courts in the state.
At the top of the state judiciary is the supreme court of appeals, which hears disputes of lower court decisions. Some parties may petition the supreme court to take their case to a special business court.
Requesting court records
If you need to collect a settlement, evict a tenant, or prove you’ve served your court-ordered sentence of probation or parole, having the related court document can be essential. West Virginia does not currently offer an online option for searching case records, so to request records or documents you should contact the clerk of the court where your case was heard using this page: http://www.courtswv.gov/public-resources/court-information-by-county.html.
West Virginia courts do not have a specialized probate division to handle wills, estates, trusts, and guardianships as some states do. Probate matters are likely to be handled by county clerks unless the cases are contested, which moves them to the judicial system (likely at the circuit court level). To research a probate case, contact the clerk of the county where the individual lived using this directory: http://sos.wv.gov/public-services/contacts/Pages/ClerkCountyComm.aspx.
Family courts in West Virginia handle divorce and other family legal matters. When a couple divorces, the resulting agreement about child custody and care, alimony, and shared property is written up in a document called a decree. Having a copy of this document clarifies issues that may arise. Contact the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted to get a copy.
Each state has a division of U.S. District Court, a federal court, that deals with certain criminal and civil cases as well as bankruptcies of individuals or businesses. Court-appointed administrators usher people through the process of paying off creditors and completing the requirements set out in law. To research federal court cases, start with www.pacer.gov.