Chris Schulz Published

New Appeals Court Improving Consistency Of Family Law

A long shot shows a columned hall with dark wood paneled seating in a horshoe around a central seating area where many people are seated leading up to a dais.
The Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary meets in West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling during interims Nov. 13, 2023.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The state’s new intermediate court of appeals has been active for more than a year now, and its effects are starting to become apparent when it comes to families.

Members of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary heard an update from the new appeals court during interim meetings Monday at the West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling.

Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge Daniel Greear said previously the implementation of family law was inconsistent and varied greatly between circuit courts in disparate counties.

“The circuit courts that heard family law appeals in Mon County might have entirely different conclusions than the circuit courts that heard the appeals in Mercer County. Or, Berkeley County might be different than Kanawha County. And they, in fact, were.” he said. 

The intermediate court began hearing cases in July 2022 after being created by the passage of Senate Bill 275 in 2021. The three-judge panel hears appeals from family courts as well as other issues including civil cases from circuit courts and worker’s compensation cases. 

Greear said before the intermediate court’s creation, appeals went directly to the state supreme court which could not devote as much time to issues of family law. 

“We think that one of the most significant things that’s going to happen, that I didn’t anticipate or realize, from the existence of our court is the development of family law in a consistent manner throughout the state,” he said.

Greear says since its inception in 2021, the intermediate court has more than tripled the number of published decisions on family law from 22 to 65.