Divorce in Wyoming
Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
- What happens in a divorce case?
- Do I need a legal reason to get a divorce?
- Do I need to have a lawyer to get a divorce?
- How do I start a divorce?
- How do I serve divorce papers?
- What if I am served with divorce papers?
- How much does it cost to file for divorce?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- What is mediation?
- What is a guardian ad litem?
- Temporary support, custody and visitation
- What is a legal separation?
A divorce is a way of legally ending a marriage. This handout provides an overview of Wyoming divorce procedures. A divorce judgment will legally decide:
- The date your marriage ends;
- Who gets custody of the children and when the other parent sees them;
- Who pays child support and how much;
- Who will pay health insurance for the children;
- Who should pay past bills;
- How property (including retirement benefits and a home) will be divided; and
- Whether one spouse will pay spousal support (alimony) to the other.
- It can also restore the wife’s maiden name if she chooses to do so.
Wyoming has “no fault” divorce which means you don’t need to give a specific reason to get a divorce. The only reason you need is that you and your spouse cannot get along, and you see no way of settling your problems. The law calls this "irreconcilable differences." Wyoming law also says that one of the parties is “aggrieved” and that is usually the person who either asks the court for the divorce or is legally granted the divorce if both people ask for the divorce.
It depends. If you and your spouse agree about all the terms of the divorce, then you may be able to complete much of the divorce paperwork yourself. However, you probably will still want advice from a lawyer. If the two of you can’t agree, you will almost certainly need a lawyer.
The forms for a divorce are available on the Wyoming Supreme Court website (http://www.courts.state.wy.us/LegalHelp) in the Self-Help section. You only need to fill out the forms that apply to your situation. Read the instructions before completing any forms. Before you file the divorce papers, ask a lawyer to review them, if possible.
If your spouse has a lawyer, you will want to get one too. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
If you decide to get a lawyer, make sure you understand how much the lawyer charges and what he or she will do for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You may be able to find a lawyer who will let you pay a certain amount each month or who will charge you a lower fee. If you need names of lawyers who may do this, you can call the Wyoming State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 307-632-9061.
If you have lived in Wyoming for at least 60 days you can file for divorce. You can file for divorce in the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives, if different. If you used to live here but moved away,you must live here again for at least 60 days before you can file here.
If there are childen of the marriage: The court can make custody decisions only if your children have lived in Wyoming for six (6) months or if it has emergency jurisdiction. Therefore, without an emergency situation, if you relocate to Wyoming with children of the marriage, you may have to wait at least six (6) months before filing for divorce. Click here for more information about child custody. If you think you have an emergency sitation, you should talk to a lawyer. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
There are three things you need to do to start a divorce:
- You must file certain forms with the Clerk of the District Court at the courthouse. One of these forms is called a Complaint for Divorce. This is what officially tells the court that you and your spouse want a divorce.
- You must have certain, required documents, including the complaint, given specifically to your spouse. This is known as having the divorce papers “served on” your spouse. It is the official way to tell your spouse that you have started the divorce process. It also gives some idea of what you want from the divorce but complaints for divorce aren’t very detailed.
- You must pay the court fees to file a divorce complaint and also pay any fee charged for serving your spouse. If you cannot afford these fees, you can request to be excused from paying them (called a fee waiver) but you have to have a good reason and you might not be excused.
If a lawyer is handling your divorce, he or she will have the divorce papers served on your spouse. If you are using the "do-it-yourself" forms, the instructions or “Steps” will tell you what you need to do. There are several ways to serve your spouse:
- Your spouse can agree to sign papers that say he or she has been served;
- Otherwise, your spouse must be served personally by either the Sheriff or another adult (not you or your children); or
- You must use other ways if your spouse lives outside of Wyoming, or you do not know where your spouse is. See the instructions in the “Steps” on the Wyoming Supreme Court website, http://www.courts.state.wy.us/LegalHelp/Forms.
If you agree with everything in the divorce complaint, you don’t have to respond. However, even if you agree with everythng, it is ususally best to answer the compaint in order to receive notices about the case and to protect your interests. If you fail to answer, you will not receive any further notice about the case until the Judge orders a default judgment.
If you want to challenge any of the terms listed in the complaint, including custody of children or how property will be divided, you must file a written answer with the court. The answer tells the Court what you want in the divorce. Contact a lawyer or a legal services office to learn about what you can do. There is no fee to file an answer in a divorce case.
- If you were served with the divorce papers in Wyoming, you have 20 days to file your answer with the court.
- If you were served with the divorce complaint in another state, you have 30 days to answer.
Important! If you do not answer the complaint by the required time, the court can enter a divorce judgment in favor of the person who filed the complaint. This is called a “Default Judgment” and means your spouse may get everything he or she asked for.
If you have any questions about this or about what your choices are, contact a lawyer or a legal services office as soon as possible. If you cannot find a lawyer or choose to “do-it-yourself”, you can find forms and read the “Steps” for answering a divorce complaint on the Wyoming Supreme Court website,http://www.courts.state.wy.us/LegalHelp.
Filing fees depend on the county where you are filing. Most are around $70-$100. You will also have to pay any fee charged for serving your spouse.The District Court Clerk at your local courthouse can tell you what the fees are.
You will need more money if you hire a lawyer to help with your divorce and the more things you and your spouse can’t agree on, the more time and money it will cost.
In Wyoming you have to wait at least 20 days after you file the papers to get a divorce, but most take longer. The more things you and your spouse disagree about, the longer it will take. Also, if you ask for temporary child custody or support, that can mean more hearings and more time until the divorce is final.
Mediation is when you and your spouse meet with a mediator (person might be a counselor, lawyer or retired judge) in an attempt to agree on issues such as child custody, support, visitation and property and debt division. A judge may order you and your spouse to do mediation before coming to court or setting a divorce trial. If you are worried about mediation because of safety or other concerns, let the court know.
Although the judge may order you and your spouse to do mediation, you are never required to reach an agreement at mediation.
Sometimes a judge or lawyer asks that a lawyer be appointed as a guardian ad litem, or “GAL”, in a custody case. The GAL doesn’t represent you or your spouse but, instead, helps to figure out what is best for your child or children. This might include who should get custody, how visitation should work, etc. Some courts make you and your spouse pay for the GAL. If you are worried about having a GAL because of safety, expenses or other concerns, let the court know.
You might be able to get short-term orders until your divorce if final for things like child custody, spousal and/or child support, visitation and expenses before your divorce trial. A custody decision may be made before a decision on any other issue. How long it will take to have a hearing scheduled depends on the court. If you are seeking a temporary order until a final order is made by a judge, you should seek advice from a lawyer. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
A legal separation is a court order that decides who gets the children, who pays support for the children, whether spousal support is ordered, and who gets what property. You might want a legal separation if your religious beliefs don’t allow divorce or if you or your spouse needs to be covered by the other’s medical insurance. A legal separation costs about the same as a divorce. Filing for legal separation does not prevent a divorce from being filed.
The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that you are still married after a legal separation.
If you have more questions about the difference between a divorce and a legal separation, you should seek advice from a lawyer. Click here for help finding a lawyer.