Child Support in Wyoming

Learn how child support is calculated in Wyoming, when you can depart from the guideline amount of support, how to collect or change support payments, and more.

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If you're a parent facing divorce (or you were never married to your child's other parent), one of your biggest concerns will be around the issue of child support. Like all other states in the U.S., Wyoming has guidelines that are meant to give parents, judges, and state agencies a consistent method for calculating child support. The state provides tools and forms to help with the calculations (more on that below). But before you start filling out the forms, it helps to understand how the guidelines work and when exceptions might apply.

Who Pays Child Support in Wyoming?

All parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially. Wyoming's guidelines calculate that obligation for each parent, based primarily on their relative incomes. Typically, the parent who doesn't have the children most of the time (the noncustodial parent) pays child support to the custodial parent. Meanwhile, the guidelines assume that custodial parents meet their support obligation by paying for groceries, clothing, housing, and the children's other expenses.

The question of who pays support isn't as clear cut when both parents have the children for substantial amounts of time. In some of these situations, the guidelines use a formula that's based on the parents' relative incomes and their custody arrangements (more on that below). So it's possible that a parent who has the kids more than half the time but also has a significantly higher income than the other parent might end up having to pay child support.

How Wyoming's Child Support Calculation Works

Wyoming's child support guidelines use what's known as the "income shares model." Basically, here's how that works:

  • Based on both parents' combined incomes and the number of children being supported, the guidelines include a table that shows a basic, total support obligation.
  • Then, each parent's share of that obligation is calculated according to their respective shares of their combined income. For example, if the custodial parent has a net monthly income of $2,200 and the noncustodial parent's net is $2,800, the noncustodial parent earns 56% of their combined net ($2,800 ÷ $5,000 = 56%) and would be responsible for that same percentage of the basic child support obligation (not counting adjustments).

The guidelines also include details on what counts as income and which deductions are allowed, as well as special calculations in certain cases.

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-304 (2024).)

What Counts as Income in Wyoming's Child Support Guidelines?

The first step in calculating child support is to figure each parent's monthly gross and net income.

Gross income includes wages, tips, commissions, self-employment or business income, annuities and retirement pay, workers' compensation and disability benefits, and unemployment compensation. But gross income does not include public assistance that's based on need, such as Pell grants, SSI, and SNAP benefits. It also doesn't include overtime pay, unless the overtime is expected to continue on a consistent basis.

Net income is gross income minus certain deductions, including:

  • federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • premiums paid for your children's health insurance coverage
  • any mandatory, employment-related retirement or pension contributions, and
  • current payments under pre-existing orders for the support of other children.

If you're self-employed or have business or rental income, you can also deduct legitimate, reasonable, and unreimbursed business expenses.

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-303 (2024).)

When Can "Potential" Income Be Used to Calculate Child Support?

If either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the child support calculation will use that parent's potential earning capacity (also known as "imputed income") rather than actual income. When deciding whether it's appropriate to impute income to a parent (and if so, how much), the judge must consider all of the relevant circumstances, including:

  • the parent's previous employment experience, educational level, and special skills or training
  • the availability of employment the parent is qualified for, as well as the prevailing wages for those jobs
  • whether the parent could realistically earn the amount of imputed income, and
  • whether children covered by this support order are living with the parent, and the impact of their presence on the parent's income.

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-307(b)(xi) (2024).)

Computation for Shared or Split Custody Arrangements

Wyoming recognizes that divorced parents have higher expenses when they both have their kids for significant amounts of time. That's why the state's guidelines include special computations of child support when the parents will have either of the following custody arrangements:

  • Shared physical custody. This calculation applies only when each parent has the children overnight for more than 25% of the year (at least 92 overnights), and both parents contribute substantially to the children's expenses in addition to paying child support.
  • Split custody. This calculation applies when siblings are split between their parents—that is, each parent has physical custody of at least one of their kids.

These formulas will determine which parent will have to pay child support, as well as the amount of the monthly support obligation. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-304(c), (d) (2024).)

Adjustment for Lower-Income Parents

Wyoming's guidelines also include an adjustment that's meant to ensure that parents will have enough money to cover their own basic expenses after they've paid child support. An amount known as the "self-support reserve" is subtracted from the net income of the parent who will be making the support payments. If the difference between those two figures is lower than that parent's share of the support obligation, the parent will only owe the lower amount.

The amount of the self-support reserve is based on the federal poverty level for an individual, which typically changes every year. The individual level for 2024 was $15,060 (or $1,255 per month).

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-304(f) (2024).)

When Can Child Support Be Different Than the Guideline Amount?

The amount of support calculated under Wyoming's guidelines is called "presumptive child support," because the law presumes that it's the correct amount in any case. However, if the evidence shows the presumptive amount would be unjust or inappropriate, the judge may order a different amount when establishing child support or modifying existing support (more on that below). Before making that decision, the judge must consider all of the relevant circumstances, including:

  • the child's age
  • whether the child has any special health care or educational needs
  • necessary expenses for the child, including day care and transportation for visitation
  • either parent's ability to provide job-related health insurance coverage for the child
  • how much time the child spends with each parent
  • either parent's responsibility for supporting other children
  • the value of services that either parent contributes to raising the child
  • expenses related to pregnancy and child birth if the parents were never married or divorced before their child was born, and
  • whether either parent has violated any provisions in the divorce decree (more on that below).

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-307(b) (2024).)

Can Parents Agree on a Child Support Amount?

Parents may—and usually do—reach an agreement on the issue of child support. But they'll need to submit their agreement to the court, along with financial affidavits and documentation of their earnings.

Parents may not agree that neither of them will pay child support. Any time they agree to a support amount that's different than the presumptive amount calculated under the guidelines, they'll have to include an explanation to support a deviation. The judge will decide whether to approve their agreement after reviewing all of the submitted materials and considering the deviation factors (discussed above).

The judge may not approve an agreement for less than the presumptive amount if a parent is receiving public assistance (including Medicaid benefits) on behalf of the child.

If you're tempted to request a trial on the issue of child support rather than reach an agreement, you might consider this additional provision in Wyoming law: If the parents don't agree, and the judge ends up ordering the presumptive support amount after a hearing, the parent who unsuccessfully argued for a deviation from the guidelines may have to pay the other parent's attorney's fees and court costs.

(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-307(c), (d) (2024).)

When Does Child Support End in Wyoming?

As a general rule, the obligation to pay child support ends in Wyoming when the child reaches the age of majority (which is 18 in the state) or is otherwise emancipated. However, the support obligation continues past age 18 for children who are:

  • full-time students in high school (or an equivalent program) and younger than 20, or
  • unable to support themselves because of a physical or mental disability.

The support obligation also ends if the child dies or the parents marry (or remarry) each other. (Wyo. Stat. §§ 14-1-101, 14-2-201, 20-2-313 (2024).)

Parents may agree to continue child support beyond high school—for instance, to help a student through college. As with any other support-related details they've agreed on, they should include that provision in a signed, written agreement and submit it to the court, so that it can be made part of an official court order.

How to Apply for Child Support in Wyoming

If you have kids and are filing for divorce (or seeking a judicial separation) in Wyoming, child support will be addressed as part of that legal process.

If you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may request child support by applying for services with the Wyoming Child Support Program (WCSP). As part of the process, the agency will also help with establishing the child's parentage.

Paying and Collecting Child Support in Wyoming

Under Wyoming law, child support must be paid through an income withholding order unless:

  • the parents have agreed to another arrangement (and submitted their signed agreement to the court), or
  • the judge finds there's a good reason not to require income withholding—for instance, if the noncustodial parent is self-employed.

Income withholding is just what it sounds like: the child support payments are withheld from the noncustodial parent's paycheck and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU), which then sends the money on to the other parent. If either of the exceptions for income withholding apply, parents may send child support payments directly to the SDU or pay online. (Wyo. Stat. §§ 20-2-309(e), 20-6-204 (2024).)

If you're having trouble getting your child support payments, you may request enforcement help from the WCSP (by applying for services, as mentioned above). Like all child support enforcement agencies, the WCSP may use any of a number of methods to collect overdue support ("arrearages"), including:

  • intercepting tax returns or lottery winnings
  • seizing or placing a hold on bank accounts and other assets
  • suspending or revoking drivers' licenses, as well as professional and recreational licenses
  • reporting the overdue debt to a credit bureau, and
  • denying passports.

You also have the option of filing a motion to have the deadbeat parent found in contempt of court for willfully violating a child support order. You'll probably need a lawyer's assistance to navigate the contempt proceedings. But if you're successful, the judge may order your ex to pay your attorney's fees and costs along with the other penalties for contempt of court (which may include fines and even jail). (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-310 (2024).)

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

Either parent may file a request to have the current amount of child support changed. Depending on how long it's been since the existing order was issued, the requirements for these requests are different:

  • Modification based on changed circumstances. You may file a petition for modification of child support at any time, as long as you can prove there's been a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification. For example, changed circumstances that might qualify include substantial increases or decreases in a parent's income, in child care expenses, or in extraordinary medical expenses for the child that aren't covered by insurance.
  • Review and adjustment based on 20% change: If it's been more than six months since the support order was last issued or reviewed, you may ask the WCSP to review your order based on your current financial information. If a new calculation under the guidelines would result in a 20% difference in the amount of presumptive child support, the WCSP (or either parent) may file a petition for an adjustment. If the judge's review shows that the presumptive support amount would now be 20% higher or lower than the existing order, that will count as a change of circumstances justifying a modification.
  • Review and adjustment every three years. Every three years, either parent may request a review and potential adjustment of the existing support order without having to show a change of circumstances.

When a judge orders a support modification, the change will be retroactive only to when the other parent received formal notice of the petition (unless both parents agree otherwise). That's why you should act as soon as possible if you believe you're entitled to a change in your current payments. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-311 (2024).)

Modification of Support for Disabled Adult Chldren

Wyoming has special rules for requests by noncustodial parents to adjust child support for adult children with disabilities who can't support themselves. In addition to meeting the other modification requirements (discussed above), the noncustodial parent must prove that the adjustment would be in the child's best interests. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-316 (2024).)

Does Remarriage Affect Child Support?

In and of itself, either parent's marriage to a new spouse will not qualify as a change of circumstances justifying a modification in the amount of support. A new spouse's income is not included in a parent's income when calculating child support.

However, when a parent has one or more children with a new spouse, that might play a role in a modification request. Because the considerations for deviating from the guidelines (discussed above) include a parent's responsibility to provide support for other children, the Wyoming Supreme Court has held that a judge may consider a parent's "later-born" children with a new spouse when deciding on a modification request. (TSR v. State ex rel. Dep't of Fam. Serv., 406 P.3d 729 (Wyo. 2017).)

Can a Judge Order a Child Support Modification Because of Custody or Visitation Violations?

In most states, the obligation to pay child support is separate from the obligation to obey custody and visitation orders. A noncustodial parent isn't allowed to stop paying child support because the custodial parent is withholding visitation, and a custodial parent may not keep a child from seeing a noncustodial parent because the child support payments are late.

While that type of behavior is not condoned in Wyoming law, the state is unusual in that it specifically allows judges to consider a parent's violations of custody and visitation laws when deciding whether to allow a support modification that deviates from the guidelines—but only if the judge finds that the violations are relevant. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-307(b)(xii) (2024).)

Resources and Help With Child Support

Wyoming provides an online child support calculator that will help you do the computations for the presumptive amount of child support in your case. But remember that the judge may order a different amount of support in your case if a deviation from the guidelines is warranted (as discussed above).

The main webpage for the WCSP has links to FAQs and other information about the agency's services. You can read the full text of the guidelines by searching for the Wyoming statutes discussed in this article. You can also find the current child support computation forms in the packets available on the Wyoming Court Self-Help Forms page (under "Family Law," look for the appropriate packets for divorce with children, establishment of child support, or child support modification).

While the WCSP can help many parents establish, enforce, or modify child support orders, there are situations that call for assistance from a qualified family law attorney. This is especially true if you're arguing for or against an amount of support that's higher or lower than the presumptive amount under the guidelines, or you and your co-parent don't agree on a request to modify your existing order.

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