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Family Law Issues

Student Legal Services - ASUW

What Do I Need To Do To Get Married? 
In Wyoming, you must be at least 18 years old in order to marry without permission from your parent or guardian. If either of the partners is under 16 years of age, you cannot marry without a court's permission. Wyoming does not require any kind of blood test or physical exam in order to apply for a marriage license.

In Wyoming, you will need to apply for a marriage license at any county clerk's office. The license usually costs twenty five dollars. There is no residency requirement in order to obtain a marriage license. Additionally, in Wyoming there is no waiting period; you will receive the license right away, and there is no waiting period between receiving the license and getting married. The license will never expire once it is issued. Once you are married, you will receive a marriage certificate. This document proves that you are legally married.

If you plan to change your name after your marriage, the marriage certificate serves as proof of your marriage, which you will use to begin the process of notifying government agencies about your name change, as well as other places you do business with (such as banks, credit card companies, etc.)

What Do I Need To Do To Get A Divorce? 
In Wyoming, there is a residency requirement that must be met before you can file for a divorce. Before filing, you must have resided in the state of Wyoming for at least 60 days prior to filing for divorce or your marriage must have been performed in Wyoming and you must have lived in Wyoming from the time of your marriage until you file for divorce.

Grounds for Divorce
The grounds for divorce in Wyoming are irreconcilable differences in the marriage and incurable insanity

The Divorce Process
Even though Wyoming has the broad grounds for divorce of irreconcilable differences (which can mean just about anything), one person still must begin the process by filing a divorce complaint. This person becomes the "plaintiff" in the divorce, and the other spouse is the "defendant". The divorce process begins when one person files the complaint, and ends with a "decree of divorce", which finalizes the divorce. There may be many other documents drafted and filed between the first complaint and the decree.

Having a lawyer represent you in a divorce is very beneficial, as he or she can help you navigate the system and protect your rights and interests. In Wyoming, however, you can represent yourself if you choose. This is called "pro se". The Wyoming Supreme Court website has a link for documents you will need if you want to represent yourself in a divorce, which can be found here: Wyoming Divorce and Child Custody Pro Se Packets

Property Division
Wyoming is an "equitable distribution" state, which means that the marital property will be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean exactly equal. It means the division will be what the court finds is fair in the particular situation. Couples who are divorcing are always encouraged by the courts to reach a settlement between themselves on property and debt issues. But if this can't be accomplished, the court will decide the property award.

When the court makes the property division decision, there are several factors the court considers: the different merits of each party's side of the case and the position they will be left in once the divorce is final, and who acquired the different pieces of property and how it will benefit either party or the children, if there are any. See Wyoming Statute §20-2-114.

Child Custody After Divorce
The court will make a child custody decision that is based on the best interests of the child or children. The court will consider a number of factors in making that decision. Those factors include the following:

  1. The quality of the relationship each child has with each parent;
  2. The ability of each parent to provide adequate care for each child throughout each period of responsibility, including arranging for each child's care by others as needed;
  3. The relative competency and fitness of each parent;
  4. Each parent's willingness to accept all responsibilities of parenting, including a willingness to accept care for each child at specified times and to relinquish care to the other parent at specified times;
  5. How the parents and each child can best maintain and strengthen a relationship with each other;
  6. How the parents and each child interact and communicate with each other and how such interaction and communication may be improved;
  7. The ability and willingness of each parent to allow the other to provide care without intrusion, respect the other parent's rights and responsibilities, including the right to privacy;
  8. Geographic distance between the parents' residences;
  9. The current physical and mental ability of each parent to care for each child;
  10. Any other factors the court deems necessary and relevant.

In any proceeding in which the custody of a child is at issue the court shall not prefer one parent over the other as a custodian based only on gender. The court shall order custody in well defined terms, so that the parties will understand the order and comply with it. Custody is crafted to promote the best interests of the children, and may include any combination of joint, shared or sole custody.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the non-custodial parent shall have the same right of access as the parent awarded custody to any records relating to the child of the parties, including school records, activities, teachers and teachers' conferences as well as medical and dental treatment providers and mental health records. At any time the court may require parents to attend appropriate parenting classes, including but not limited to, parenting classes to lessen the effects of divorce on children.

See Wyoming Statute §20-2-201.

Child Support 
The court will also have the parent who is not the primary caretaker pay some form of child support to the other parent as long as the children are minors (which is until they turn 18). Child support is ordered in a specific dollar amount. Wyoming law provides formulas to determine the amount of money that the non-custodial parent must provide, based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children. 

Child support orders can be modified as circumstances warrant, by asking the court to revisit the parties' situations, for example if one parent begins to make more or less money. See Wyoming Statute §20-2-301 and following.

Annulments are not very common, because they are granted only in very limited circumstances. In Wyoming, marriages are void without a judicial decree of divorce if either party already had a spouse who was living at the time of the marriage, if either party was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage, or if the parties are related by blood (Wyoming does not permit marriages between first cousins).

Marriages are voidable (meaning that they can be annulled and it will be as if the marriage never occurred) if one of the parties was underage, and the parties separated while the party was still underage, and did not live together again afterwards. A marriage can also be annulled if the marriage was entered into because of force or fraud, and the parties did not voluntarily live together afterwards. See Wyoming Statute §20-2-101.

Judicial Separation
Sometimes, parties no longer wish to live together, but certain religious beliefs or other circumstances prevent them from wanting to have the marriage dissolved through a divorce. In that kind of a situation, they can ask for a judicial separation.

When circumstances are such that grounds for a divorce exist, the party who wants a judicial separation can start a proceeding by complaint in the same manner as if he or she were seeking a decree of divorce, but asking instead to be allowed to live separate and apart from the other party. 
Division of property, child custody and support will also be determined in this type of proceeding by the court as it finds to be just and equitable. The separation can be for a limited time period, or can be indefinite. Judicial separation does not prevent parties from seeking a divorce at a later time, or from asking that the order for judicial separation be discharged later. See Wyoming Statute §20-2-106.

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