What You Need to Know About Divorce and Child Custody in Wyoming
Understanding divorce and child custody laws in Wyoming can be complex and confusing. If your marriage has fallen apart, you should not navigate the divorce process on your own. A knowledgeable lawyer can help make sure your rights are protected.
The experienced divorce and child custody attorneys at Burg Simpson have extensive experience with a range of complex family law matters. We understand what an emotionally difficult time this may be for you and your family, and we are committed to helping you move through the process with dignity.
Wyoming is a study in contrasts when it comes to love and marriage. On one hand, its residents are in love with being in love – they get married sooner, about two years younger than the national average. Wyoming has the 9th highest marriage rate in the country. On the other hand, Wyoming also has the highest rate of divorce in the U.S.
An Overview of Divorce in Wyoming
Wyoming is a no-fault divorce state, which simply means that the plaintiff does not have to give a reason for the divorce or establish that someone was at fault. The only at-fault cause accepted in Wyoming is if one of the spouses is “incurably insane,” and has been institutionalized for at least two years before the divorce filing.
Additionally, the plaintiff must establish:
- The marriage was valid to begin with:
- Neither party was already married at the time of the wedding:
- There was no other obstacle to the marriage:
Finally, to file for divorce in Wyoming, you must have been a resident for 60 days, which is actually one of the shorter residency requirements in the country.
What Is Just and Equitable Distribution?
As straightforward as this may initially sound, things can become complicated very fast, especially when there are a lot of assets involved in the marriage.
Normally, Wyoming law gives the divorcing parties a chance to settle any debts or assets on their own and submit them to the court in a signed Marital Settlement Agreement. But that rarely happens, especially in high-asset divorce cases.
Wyoming is a “just and equitable distribution” state, so when the parties reach an impasse when it comes to dividing a marital estate, the court will step in. Just and Equitable does not necessarily mean equal, but what the court decides is fair. In doing so, the court will:
- Initiate a discovery process to identify the assets and debts that can be reasonably classified as marital
- Assign a monetary value to those assets and debts
- Distribute the marital assets between the two parties in what it decides to be an equitable fashio
In a high-asset divorce, this process can be quite expensive and time-consuming, especially when complicated retirement and savings accounts, real estate investments, and other tangible and liquid assets are involved, which require the guidance of financial planners, accountants, or tax professionals.
Mistakes to Avoid in a Divorce
It can be incredibly tempting to rush through a divorce and child custody matter, “just to get it over with” or because of the guilt that may weigh heavily on either party. These are just a couple of the frequent mistakes the parties involved in a high-asset divorce can make. Others include:
At the outset of a divorce, both parties are required to reveal all of their assets, which may include monthly income, expenses, and debts. This disclosure is made by signing a legal affidavit under oath, with the possibility of penalties for perjury if the information provided is false.
The following is a list of common assets that may be encountered in divorce cases. This list is not exhaustive. It is important to speak with an experienced divorce and child custody attorney when disclosing assets in a divorce:
- Personal property
- Intellectual property
- Stocks and bonds
- Life insurance policies
- Recreational vehicles such as trailers, boats, motorcycles, etc.
- Income properties
- Real estate properties
- Retirement accounts
- Personal and shared bank accounts
Violating asset disclosure laws in a divorce is a serious offense. Not only could you end up paying for your spouse’s attorney fees, but you could also face jail time and fines.
Other penalties could include:
- Losing part of your share of the community property to your spouse
- Losing all of your share of the community property to your spouse
- Losing credibility with the court
It is always in your best interest to be up-front and honest about your assets and income. By concealing your assets, you could lose your claim to half of the community property in the divorce and possibly end up in jail.
Your liabilities encompass not only the debts that you have incurred throughout your marriage but also those that have arisen during your divorce proceedings.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of typical debts encountered in divorce cases. Please be aware that this list is provided for demonstrative purposes only, and your legal counsel can inform you of any additional liabilities that you must account for.
- Student loans
- Credit card bills
- Unpaid medical bills
- Auto loans
- Personal loans
- Debts owed to the IRS
- Home equity loans
- Mortgage loans
Neglecting Tax Implications
In any dissolution of marriage, it is important to take the tax implications of the divorce into consideration. Some of these considerations include:
- Tax rate changes in the first year of divorce
- Dependency deductions
- Mortgage interest and property tax deductions
- Alimony payments and taxes
- Transfers of marital property
- Spousal buyouts
The Basics of Child Custody
Nothing is more important than our children and child custody can be a major component of a divorce action. Under Wyoming Statutes § 20-2-201, custody may be awarded to either parent in the best interests of the child, and may take the form of joint, shared, or sole custody. The courts assess the quality of the child’s relationship with each parent and consider factors such as the parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, as well as their willingness to assume full responsibility for raising the child.
Parents seeking custody in Wyoming must be capable of caring for the child on a consistent basis, and those with chronic mental illnesses or serious health conditions that could endanger the child’s safety or well-being may not be considered suitable candidates. Custody cases are handled by the family courts, which have the authority to determine whether a third-party caregiver is necessary and to evaluate the qualifications of such a caregiver. The courts also stress the importance of each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other and to respect their parenting time and decision-making authority. Other factors, such as the distance between the parents’ residences and each parent’s physical and mental capacity for parenting, are also taken into consideration.
Few things are as heartbreaking and stressful as getting a divorce. Lives are upended and tensions often run high. Do not make things worse by trying to handle everything by yourselves, no matter how amicable it might seem in the beginning.
Burg Simpson Law Firm can help. Contact our divorce and child custody lawyers today online or at 307-527-7891 for a FREE and confidential case evaluation. Our office in Cody, Wyoming welcomes clients from across the state.