During or after a divorce, the court may order one spouse to pay alimony, which is a payment one spouse makes to a former spouse to ensure both spouses remain financially stable after the divorce. Also called spousal support, alimony is helpful for spouses who need support while adjusting to a one-income household.
Judges in Wyoming can order the following types of alimony in a divorce:
Temporary alimony. During the lengthy divorce process, a financially dependent spouse can request temporary support to help meet financial obligations. Temporary alimony is available to either spouse, if there’s a need, and terminates when the judge finalizes the divorce. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-111.)
Short-term support. For some spouses, short-term alimony is necessary to help a lower-earning spouse adjust to a new, post-divorce, standard of living. If a spouse has marketable job skills or education and can find employment, a judge may order short-term support to help the recipient get until the spouse becomes self-supporting.
Rehabilitative alimony. The most common type of support in Wyoming. Rehabilitative support is appropriate for spouses who are able to become self-supporting but need time and financial help to acquire the education or job skills necessary to find employment that will lead to financial independence from a former spouse.
Permanent support. In rare cases, a spouse is unable to become financially independent due to advanced age, declining health, or loss of education or job skills. Judges typically reserve permanent support for extreme circumstances and long-term marriages.
The decision regarding alimony doesn’t have to end up in the hands of the judge. If a divorcing couple negotiates the terms of a support order and provides a settlement agreement to the court, the judge will review and sign it. However, if the couple can’t decide, the judge will begin a support evaluation.
There is no equation or calculator that you can use to find out how much alimony a judge will order in Wyoming. Instead, the court may consider:
The goal of any alimony award is to ensure that neither spouse is financially disadvantaged after the divorce. The court will not use alimony to “punish” a spouse who committed misconduct during the marriage, and will also not discriminate against a spouse based on gender. Wyoming law requires the judge to award alimony if it’s “just and equitable”—meaning, the order must be fair to both spouses. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-114.)
Temporary alimony is only available during the legal divorce process. After the judge finalizes the divorce, temporary alimony terminates and (if awarded) post-divorce support begins. Judges can order payments for a short or indefinite period, depending on the circumstances.
Unless the couple agrees otherwise, alimony terminates automatically when either spouse dies.
Wyoming is unique in that alimony doesn’t automatically terminate if the supported spouse remarries. Instead, if the supported spouse remarries during the term of support, the paying spouse can request a review of alimony by the court. The judge will only terminate the award if there is also a material and substantial change of circumstances that accompany the remarriage.
Couples who negotiate the terms of their alimony award in a settlement agreement can’t ask a court to change the contract later. For example, if you and your spouse agreed that you would pay your spouse alimony for six years and your agreement doesn’t address what would happen if the supported spouse remarries, you will likely be paying support for the whole six years. (Maher v. Maher, 90 P.3d 739.)
The court can order periodic payments for a specific period or for life or can require a lump-sum payment. Lump-sum payments may be one payment or several installments for many years.
The court can modify alimony at any time after the divorce is final if a spouse requests it and demonstrates a material and substantial change of circumstances since the last order. If a requesting spouse asks the court to change an existing order, the court will hold a hearing to review the evidence of the change of circumstances.
Until the judge orders otherwise, a paying spouse must continue to pay alimony precisely as the existing order requires. Otherwise, the court could find the spouse guilty of contempt, request a show cause hearing, issue fines, or sentenced the spouse to jail. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-116.)
If you finalized your divorce on or before December 31, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits a paying spouse to deduct alimony payments and requires recipients to report and pay taxes on the income.
However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the tax deduction benefit and the reporting requirements for alimony payments made pursuant to an agreement or court order entered on or after January 1, 2019.
The changes to the tax law may impact both spouses, and if you’re going through a divorce where alimony is an issue, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney in your area.