Whether you live in Wyoming or elsewhere, divorce for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody and support.
Residency and Where to File
In order to file for divorce in Wyoming, the person filing (the plaintiff) must have either been a Wyoming resident for at least 60 days immediately before filing, or have been a resident since the time of the marriage if the parties were married in Wyoming. You may file in the District Court in the county where either party resides.
The simplest procedure is an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse can reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. You begin the divorce procedure by preparing a document called a Complaint for Divorce, along with various other supporting documents. For an uncontested divorce, one of these documents will be a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets, and your agreement regarding any children. These documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Wyoming, like most states, has what is commonly called a no-fault ground for divorce, and one traditional fault-based ground.
To get a no-fault divorce in Wyoming, you need to state in the Complaint for Divorce that “the parties have irreconcilable differences.”
The fault-based ground for divorce is confinement for incurable insanity for 2 years. However, in most cases, there is no reason to use this, since it adds complexity to the process by requiring proof.
A divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Wyoming divorce law provides that all property is marital property, regardless of how or when it was acquired (although this is a factor to be considered).
Unlike most states, Wyoming divorce law does not provide much guidance in determining how property should be divided. Absent an agreement of the parties, the judge is directed to divide the property “as appears just and equitable, having regard for the respective merits of the parties and the condition in which they will be left by the divorce, the party through whom the property was acquired and the burdens imposed upon the property for the benefit of either party and children.”
Alimony in Wyoming
Any agreement you and your spouse reach regarding alimony (including that no alimony will be paid), will most likely be approved by the court. Unlike most states, Wyoming alimony law does not provide much in the way of guidelines, thereby leaving much to the discretion of the judge if there is no agreement.
All the Wyoming law says is that either party may be awarded “reasonable alimony out of the estate of the other having regard for the other’s ability to pay and may order so much of the other’s real estate or the rents and profits thereof as is necessary be assigned and set out to either party for life, or may decree a specific sum be paid by either party.”
Child Custody in Wyoming
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. This comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. The court may require the parties to attend parenting classes, including parenting classes to lessen the effects of divorce on children.
If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on custody, it will be accepted by the judge unless it is determined not to be in the child’s best interest. If you cannot reach a custody agreement, the judge will decide the issue in a manner “that appears most expedient and in the best interests of the children,” after considering all relevant factors, including:
- the quality of the relationship each child has with each party,
- each party’s ability to provide adequate care for the child throughout each period of responsibility, including arranging for child care by others as needed,
- the relative competency and fitness of each party,
- each party’s willingness to accept all responsibilities of parenting, including care at specified times and relinquishing care to the other party at specified times,
- how each party and the child can best maintain and strengthen their relationship,
- how the parties and the child interact and communicate with each other, and how such interaction and communication may be improved,
- each party’s ability and willingness to allow the other to provide care without intrusion, and respect the other party’s responsibilities and rights (including privacy),
- the geographic distance between the parties’ residences,
- each party’s current physical and mental ability to care for the child,
- any evidence of spousal or child abuse, and
- any other factors the court deems necessary and relevant.
Child Support in Wyoming
A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. This is determined by reference to the Wyoming child support guidelines.
A Decree of Divorce may not be entered until at least 20 days after the Complaint for Divorce is filed.
Filing a divorce can be a complex process, but if you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce you may be able to save time. Following these steps will help you get started with your divorce.
LegalZoom’s Uncontested Online Divorce service is an inexpensive way to file for divorce if you and your spouse agree on most major issues. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney for advice or help filing for divorce through the LegalZoom personal legal plan.