People’s Law School teaches residents about family court

ELKINS – Officials answered questions regarding family law – including how child support is determined, how custody matters work and how to fill out protective orders – at the second session of the People’s Law School recently.

The second session of the PLS took place at the Randolph County Courthouse Jan. 30.

Scott A. Curnutte led a panel that included David W. Hart, Timothy H. Prentice and Jefferson L. Triplett about matters of family law. Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong served as moderator for the session.

Triplett led the discussion about parental custody law and how divorce affects children.

“Custody of children is established by the court in three instances,” Triplett said. “One is instances of divorce, the second is for children born out of wedlock and the third is a legal separation. In all of these instances the court weighs options to keep in mind the best interest of the child.”

Triplett said that the Court weighs those options by considering many factors including contact with parents and siblings, preventing exposure to harm or harmful situations and how caretaking functions are split between the two parents. He said Family Court limits parenting time for parents who neglect or abuse children or others, are involved in domestic violence, or interfere with parental time of their former spouse, and those who provide fraudulent rports of abuse and neglect.

Triplett also talked about the importance of the guardian ad litem who acts as the child’s attorney and seeks the best interests of the child.

“They are charged by the court to look out for the child’s well-being,” said Triplett. “Their job in court is to keep children out of the picture as much as possible.”

Hart talked about property issues in regard to divorce. One of the biggest subjects Hart touched on was determining what does and does not qualify as a marital asset.

“A marital asset is defined as anything that is acquired specifically during the course of the marriage,” Hart said. “This also includes joint checking accounts, property, even pensions.”

Hart said that the burden of proof is on the individual parties involved to show that something is not marital property.

Prentice used his experience as a Family Court judge to explain how to file a protection order.

“Emergency protective orders are designed to prevent someone from getting hurt,” Prentice said. “They are available for the public to fill out at the Magistrate’s office.”

Curnutte gave an overview about child support and how it is determined, namely through an equation that includes the number of children involved, the gross income of the parents, the cost of work-related childcare and medical insurance for the children.

He explained that once it is ordered, child support is to be paid until the child is 18 or until the child graduates high school.

“This is something that I had been through in years past,” said Nancy Kisner, who is experiencing People’s Law School for the first time this year. “It’s something I wish I had had prior knowledge of going into my personal situation.”

“This is really valuable information for everybody to know.” said Brenda Cantley, a first year attendee. “It’s great that these sessions help inform the public of what options they have as well as to how everything works.”

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