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Finding Court Records in West Virginia

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 Courts

Circuit 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 Courts

Magistrate 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 Courts

Family 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 Courts

Municipal 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 Claims

The 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 Courts

West 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.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases Some Cases    
General Civil - Limited Some Cases Some Cases    
Small Claims   Most or All Cases    
Civil Equity Most or All Cases      
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases      
Foreclosures and Liens Some Cases Some Cases    
Real Estate Title and Boundary Most or All Cases   Some Cases  
Landlord / Tenant Some Cases Most or All Cases    
Ordinance Violations   Some Cases   Some Cases
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases  
Administrative Agency Appeals Most or All Cases      
Criminal Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
Felony Most or All Cases      
Felony Preliminary Hearings Some Cases Some Cases    
Misdemeanors Some Cases Most or All Cases    
Ordinance Violations   Some Cases   Some Cases
Juvenile Most or All Cases      
Traffic and Infractions   Some Cases   Some Cases
Domestic Relations Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
Divorce Some Cases   Most or All Cases  
Child Custody and Visitation Some Cases   Most or All Cases  
Child Support Some Cases   Most or All Cases  
Paternity Some Cases   Most or All Cases  
Domestic Violence Protection Order Some Cases Some Cases Most or All Cases  
Juvenile Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
Adoptions Most or All Cases      
Juvenile Delinquency Most or All Cases      
Child Abuse and Neglect Most or All Cases      
Termination of Parental Rights Most or All Cases      
Children in Need of Supervision Most or All Cases      
Mental Health Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
Involuntary Commitments Most or All Cases      
Other Mental Health Cases Some Cases Some Cases    
Probate Circuit Courts Magistrate Courts Family Courts Muncipal Courts
Wills & Estates Most or All Cases      
Name Changes Some Cases   Some Cases  
Trusts Most or All Cases      
Guardianships and Conservatorships Some Cases   Some Cases  

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