If you are getting a divorce in Wyoming, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the laws.
This guide will give you an overview of how Wyoming divorce laws work.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
What You’ll Learn:
- The Basic Divorce Laws in Wyoming
- How is the Division of Property Handled?
- Retirement Plans and Pensions
- Determining Alimony (Spousal Support)
- How is Child Support Calculated?
- Child Custody
- Wyoming Divorce Law FAQs
The Basic Divorce Laws in Wyoming
If you file for divorce in Wyoming you need to be a resident of the state for at least 60 days.
Wyoming is a no-fault state, meaning that all you must do is cite irreconcilable differences for your divorce to be granted.
Assets are divided according to the concept of equitable distribution. This means that marital assets are divided fairly and equitably, but not always on a 50/50 basis. The court must consider several factors before approving how assets are divided. Marital debts are also treated in a similar fashion.
Child support is determined based on the number of children you have and your combined net incomes.
Alimony can also be granted on either a temporary or permanent basis. Courts have broad discretion when it comes to deciding this issue.
Although substance abuse and domestic violence can’t be cited as official reasons for divorce, they can influence child custody and other parts of your case.
How is the Division of Property Handled?
Wyoming is an equitable distribution state. This means marital property is divided fairly and equitably, but not always equally (50/50).
Assets acquired both during and prior to the marriage can be subject to division following divorce. Before assets can be divided, it must be determined which assets are marital and which ones are separate.
Courts will use several factors to determine what is equitable. This can include marital fault (adultery), income and earning capacity, educational contributions to the marriage, which parent has primary custody of children, and so forth.
A couple can also create a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement that identifies separate property that will be recognized by the court.
The division of assets (and debts) is layered into the settlement and must be executed after the divorce is finalized.
Retirement Plans and Pensions
Pensions and 401k plans that are earned are considered marital property and must be divided like other assets in Wyoming.
In some cases, couples negotiate keeping their own pensions while giving up interests in other marital assets, perhaps their share of ownership in a home.
Placing an exact value on pensions and retirement accounts can be complicated and involve large sums of money. Retaining a retirement funds expert such as a certified divorce financial analyst, accountant, pension valuator, actuary, or business appraiser to reach an accurate figure is common.
Once the value for each spouse has been determined, each retirement account is split using an attorney or a specialized firm must create a qualified domestic relations order, often referred to as a QDRO. It details how a retirement account will be split.
The QDRO is submitted to the plan administrator and the court for approval. When executed, it makes a spouse an alternate payee, and the account is divided according to the instructions in the document.
Need some help creating a QDRO? We recommend using QDRO Counsel, a legal support services company that makes creating your QDRO much easier.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to QDROs: Everything You Need to Know
Dividing Bank Accounts
Any bank accounts with assets that are deemed marital property are also divided equitably in a divorce.
If you have a separate bank account, and you can prove the assets have been kept separate, you may be able to make the case that the funds in the account are your assets only.
Also, if you inherit a sum of money and you place it in a separate account, those funds will remain separate. However, if you place inheritances or gifts into accounts jointly owned by both spouses, those assets can become marital property and will split accordingly.
What About Debts?
Debts are treated much the same way as assets in a divorce. Either the spouses must decide how they are to be divided, or the courts will decide for them.
Debts incurred by both parties are always divided equally in the eyes of creditors, no matter what your divorce settlement says. Just because you may be able to negotiate a settlement that allows one spouse to be responsible for the debt does not necessarily mean a creditor will look at it this way.
Gifts and Inheritance
In Wyoming, inheritance and gifts are normally considered separate assets, even if they are acquired during marriage.
Both gifts and inheritances can be used as part of the overall equitable distribution of marital assets, though. A judge can take those assets into account when settling property issues.
If you commingle a gift or inheritance (i.e. deposit money in joint bank account), a separate asset can become a marital asset when this happens.
Determining Alimony (Spousal Support)
Wyoming’s courts can award various kinds of alimony, including:
Temporary alimony during a divorce action can be awarded to ensure that both spouses will be able to continue with the divorce. In some cases, the court can even order that the paying spouse cover the supported spouse’s court costs. Temporary alimony is awarded to help the supported spouse transition to life after divorce. It has a definitive end date when it is awarded.
Permanent alimony can be ordered to support a spouse for the rest of his or her life, or until that person dies or remarries. It can be paid in a lump sum or by periodic, scheduled payments.
Rehabilitative alimony is also a temporary alimony that is awarded to help a spouse become economically self-sufficient. This alimony is use for job training and education to allow the supported spouse to re-enter the workforce and become self-supporting.
Courts have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to awarding alimony in Wyoming. Awards must be reasonable, based in part on the spouse’s level of need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Several other factors are considered. These include:
- Total income of both spouses
- Earning ability of both spouses
- The length of the marriage
- Education and job skills of each spouse
- Existence of rental properties
- Income investments
- Any other factors deemed relevant
If circumstances change significantly for either spouse, a modification to alimony can be made at a future date.
When alimony is not paid according to the settlement, the owed debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Alimony
How is Child Support Calculated?
Courts generally adhere to predetermined state guidelines for child support in Wyoming using the Income Shares Model. Some deviations are allowed, based on a number of factors used by the court. They include:
- Your child’s age.
- Expenses for work-related or necessary child care.
- Any special health care or educational needs your child might have.
- Whether you or your spouse is responsible for supporting other children.
- The value of any services that you or your spouse contributes.
- Pregnancy expenses, if you and your spouse divorce before your child is born.
- The cost of transporting your child for visitation.
- Whether you or your spouse has access to health, dental and vision insurance through employment benefits.
- The amount of time your child spends with each of you.
- Whether you or your spouse is unemployed or underemployed by choice. In this case, the court will figure your potential earning capacity based on your work experience, educational level, the effect of caring for your children on your work, what opportunities exist in your career field, what those jobs generally pay, what special training you have and whether you realistically could earn that income.
- Any other factors the court considers relevant
The Child Support Enforcement Division of the Wyoming Department of Family Services oversees child support issues in the state, among other related services, such as:
- Locating parents
- Genetic testing
- Establishing paternity
- Establishing child support and medical support orders
- Enforcing child support and medical support orders
- Initiating child support enforcement cases in other states
- Responding to child support enforcement cases initiated by other states
- Reviewing and modifying child support orders
Parents in Wyoming who do not pay their child support obligations can face serval possible enforcement actions, including:
- An income withholding order is entered automatically in most child support actions; however, if one wasn’t entered originally and the child support is not being paid, the court may enter an income withholding order
- Suspension of driver’s license and/or commercial driver’s license, professional, occupational and/or recreational license (hunting license)
- Charge the parent with civil contempt of court or criminal non-support (which may include jail time)
- Deny a passport issuance or have a passport revoked or restricted
- Report the parent to credit reporting agencies
- Put a lien on the parent’s property
- Take the parent’s tax refund
- Require the noncustodial parent to post bond, security, or guarantee to insure that he/she pays child support
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support
Custody will need to be determined as part of your divorce if you have minor children in Wyoming.
This will include legal and physical custody.
Physical custody is defined as the place and parent where a child lives.
Legal custody is defined as which parent is responsible for making the major decisions in a child’s life, such as medical decisions, church and school attendance and other important issues.
Courts prefer that parents work out a mutually agreed upon parenting plan, but when parents can’t agree, the courts will make the decision for them.
According to Wyoming custody laws, the judge will always consider the best interests of the child, and use the following factors:
- Your child’s relationship with you and your spouse.
- You and your spouse’s abilities to care for your child during visitation, including arranging for child care as needed.
- How competent and fit you and your spouse are as parents.
- You and your spouse’s willingness to take on all the responsibilities that come with parenting and accept a schedule for your child’s care.
- How you and your spouse each can best maintain a relationship with your child.
- How you and your spouse each interact and communicate with your child, and how that may be improved.
- You and your spouse’s abilities to respect each other’s privacy, parental rights and the opportunity to care for your child without interference.
- How far you and your spouse live from each other.
- You and your spouse’s physical and mental abilities to care for your child.
- Any other factor the court considers necessary.
In some cases, the child’s grandparents may be awarded visitation if they file a petition and the court finds it would be in the child’s best interest.
The impact of substance abuse
Substance abuse may place a child in danger and when either parent has this kind of problem, custody and visitation can be restricted or denied by the court.
What role does domestic violence play?
Domestic violence is another issue that impacts custody. It can include physical harm, threats, psychological abuse, or malicious property damage. Domestic violence can also be perpetrated on any family member, not just a spouse.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, the first thing you must do is protect your safety and the safety of anyone else being threatened. Call 911 if needed and vacate your premises immediately.
Domestic violence can have an influence on child custody and visitation. If the court feels that a child is in physical or psychological danger, visitation can be denied, restricted, or take place under close supervision.
Read More: The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children (and How to Help Them Cope)
Wyoming Divorce FAQs
How is adultery treated in Wyoming divorce laws?
Wyoming is a no-fault state and adultery cannot be used as a reason to get a divorce. But it can be used as a reason to seek better terms for alimony. You will need to supply proof of this action if you decide to leverage to bolster your case.
What is a bifurcation of marital status, and how does it work?
A judge in Wyoming may allow a couple to divide a divorce into two separate legal actions, known as a bifurcated divorce.
This happens when most issues can be resolved, but a few issues could take a long time to adjudicate.
The judge will allow the divorce to proceed, but with the understanding that another court action will be required to finalize outstanding unresolved issues.
What are disclosure obligations?
In Wyoming, each spouse is required to disclose financial information within 30 days after the plaintiff serves the defendant with divorce papers.
Each spouse must disclose all assets, income, debts and other financial obligations so that a fair division of assets can take place, as well as determining alimony and child support.
In addition, both spouses must complete a more detailed Confidential Financial Affidavit and file it with the court.
Learn: How to Find Hidden Assets in a Divorce (Expert Advice)
What about health insurance during and after divorce?
Both parents may be required to continue health insurance for children during and after a divorce.
Under Wyoming law, a court shall require that “one or both parents shall provide insurance coverage for the children if insurance can be obtained at a reasonable cost and the benefits under the insurance policy are accessible to the children.”
However, after a divorce, group health insurers will not allow ex-spouses to remain on a policy.
That means the ex-spouse who is not covered will need to find insurance through other means, perhaps through COBRA or in the insurance marketplace.
Are there special rules and considerations for military divorces?
If you or your spouse are in the armed forces, you can get a divorce in Wyoming if either of you are stationed or live in the state. The grounds are the same as they are for a civilian divorce.
Also, pursuant to the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982, active-duty members are afforded certain protections.
For example, a military spouse can request a delay in divorce proceedings so that his or her military duties are not impacted. Legal action can be delayed when he or she is on active duty plus 60 days beyond the end of his or her enlistment.
Federal laws will not divide and distribute any of the military members’ retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.
Child support and spousal support/alimony awards can’t exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances. Normal guidelines are followed for child support issues and alimony.
Child custody and visitation issues can be more complicated due to relocation or deployment orders.
What if my spouse does not respond to any divorce actions in a timely way?
In Wyoming, your spouse has 20 days to file a response after being served with paperwork. If they choose not to respond, a judge can issue a default judgment for your divorce.
In most cases, all terms you are asking for are granted, including things like child support, alimony, a division of assets and other key issues.
If you are the defendant in a divorce, it is usually in your best interests to file some kind of response to protect your interests.
Read More: Laws Governing Military Divorces
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