West Virginia Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the West Virginia state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The West Virginia trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, Magistrate Courts, Family Courts, Muncipal Courts, and Court of Claims.
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all types of cases but generally handle cases beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Family Courts, Magistrate Courts and Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Municipal Courts operate independently from the unified court system. The Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over civil claims against the state.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to West Virginia courts by county.
West Virginia Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, and typically handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Criminal cases heard by Circuit Courts include felonies and misdemeanors.
Civil cases heard by Circuit Courts include general civil claims with more than $300 in dispute and civil equity cases.
Circuit Courts also handle probate matters, juvenile delinquency, child abuse and neglect, and reviews of recommended orders from judicial offers handling mental hygiene or juvenile matters.
Circuit Courts may handle some cases involving Family Protective Orders and other cases generally heard by Family Courts under some circumstances. Family Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit Courts over guardianships of minors.
There are specialized court divisions and judicial officers for certain types of cases. Mental Hygiene Commissioners, Mental Health Court Diversion Programs, Juvenile Referees, Juvenile Drug Courts or Teen Courts may exist in individual courts and are generally under the supervision of Circuit Courts.
West Virginia Magistrate CourtsMagistrate Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by Magistrate Courts include misdemeanors and preliminary hearings for all types of crimes. Magistrate Courts will also handle municipal ordinance violations if a Municipal Court does not exercise jurisdiction over municipal ordinance violations.
Civil cases heard by Magistrate Courts include some general civil claims with less than $5,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs. Magistrate Courts also handle most landlord-tenant disputes and some emergency domestic violence protective orders. Magistrate Courts have original jurisdiction over most general civil claims for less than $300.
Magistrate Courts do not have jurisdiction over certain types of cases, including civil equity, eminent domain, disputes over title to real estate, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, slander and libel.
West Virginia Family CourtsFamily Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of cases, including domestic relations, guardianships and domestic violence protection.
Cases typically handled by a Family Court include divorce, annulment, paternity, child custody and child support (Parental Responsibility and Family Support), child visitation, parenting plans, grandparent visitation, separate maintenance, guardianships of minors and civil domestic violence protection proceedings.
If a case involves parental responsibility or family support for a child subject to Circuit Court jurisdiction due to child abuse or child neglect, the Family Court will not have jurisdiction over the matter.
Family Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit Court over guardianships of minors.
West Virginia Muncipal CourtsMunicipal Courts have jurisdiction over the enforcement of most municipal ordinance violations.
In areas where Municipal Courts do not exist, violations of municipal ordinances are heard by Magistrate Courts.
West Virginia Court of ClaimsThe West Virginia Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over civil claims against the State of West Virginia and its agencies.
Cases handled by the Court of Claims include contract disputes, construction contract disputes, property damage, personal injury, damage and injury caused by road hazards, wrongful imprisonment, claims under the Crime Victims Compensation Act, and claims for damages caused by escaped inmates of State institutions. The Court of Claims does not hear Workers' Compensation cases.
There is no limit on the amount of damages recoverable in the Court of Claims. Individuals can bring cases to the Court of Claims without an attorney. Once a claim is submitted to the Court, it is investigated by the appropriate state agency, which then files an Answer.
The Court of Claims conducts hearings in Charleston, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Princeton and Wheeling, but handles the administrative aspects of cases from an office at the State Capitol Building in Charleston.
West Virginia Treatment CourtsWest Virginia treatment courts include Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts, Mental Health Court, a pilot pretrial release program, and the Northern Panhandle Reentry Program.
Drug Courts and Mental Health Court can set up treatment programs in lieu of jail for some offenders with alcohol, drug, or mental health problems. These problem-solving courts are expanding. Adult Drug Courts currently operate in 28 counties; Juvenile Drug Courts currently operate in 12 counties. Mental Health Court currently operates as part of the Northern Panhandle Treatment Courts in Brook, Hancock, and Ohio Counties.
The pilot pretrial release program, currently operating in Brooke, Cabell, Greenbrier, and Mercer Counties, uses probation and day report centers in lieu of jail for some offenders.
The Northern Panhandle Reentry Program places some prisoners with addiction or mental health issues in out-patient treatment.
Where to Find Court Cases in West Virginia
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of West Virginia court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Circuit Courts||Magistrate Courts||Family Courts||Muncipal Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|