Along with the emotional and practical issues involved in ending a marriage, the divorce process itself requires navigating the legal system in Wyoming. While that might seem overwhelming, it doesn't have to be all that difficult, particularly if you and your soon-to-be ex can cooperate. Here's what you need to know to get started with a Wyoming divorce.
Before you begin the process of filing for divorce in Wyoming, you should figure out the answers to a few preliminary questions.
In order to file for divorce in Wyoming, you must meet one of the following residency requirements:
(Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-107 (2022).)
As in all states, you need a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in Wyoming. Many states permit divorce on both "fault" grounds and "no-fault" grounds. Fault-based divorces allege spousal misconduct (like adultery, desertion, or cruelty). With no-fault grounds, neither spouse is accusing the other of wrongdoing.
Wyoming has followed a growing trend and permits only no-fault grounds. In order to get divorced in Wyoming, all you need to show is that there are "irreconcilable differences" in the marriage. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-104 (2022).) Basically, this means you and your spouse can no longer get along, and there isn't a reasonable prospect that the situation will change.
If you can file for an uncontested divorce in Wyoming, the entire process will be much easier, quicker, and less expensive than a traditional contested divorce. But for a divorce to be truly uncontested, you and your spouse will have had to settle all your marital issues, including:
You and your spouse may not agree that neither of you will pay child support. To help figure the proper amount of child support under Wyoming's child support guidelines, you may use Wyoming's online child support calculator or the state's Child Support Computation Form.
Once those issues are resolved, it's typical to incorporate the settlement terms in a marital settlement agreement, which can then become a part of your divorce judgment.
If you have a settlement agreement and a relatively uncomplicated case, you should be able to handle filing for divorce yourself. A do-it-yourself divorce will be the cheapest route to ending your marriage, but it will take some time and attention to detail to make sure you have all the right forms, have filled them out correctly, and have followed all of the steps and requirements for divorce in Wyoming.
Short of having an attorney represent you in the divorce, there are other ways of getting help with the process. For example, you could do one or a combination of the following:
If you and your spouse haven't been able to resolve your differences, you'll follow a traditional contested divorce route. Because that will almost certainly require hiring a lawyer—who will take care of the forms, filing, and all other legal matters during the divorce—the information outlined below is mainly focused on the filing process for folks who are handling their own divorce.
You can download forms you'll need to file for divorce, along with instructions, from the Wyoming Courts website. There are separate packets of forms for the spouse who's starting the divorce process (the "plaintiff") and the other spouse (the "defendant"), as well as for marriages with and without children.
The basic forms you'll need when starting a divorce include:
Once you've completed and signed the forms, you'll need to file the divorce papers with the District Court Clerk's office in the county where either you or your spouse lives. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-104 (2022).)
Be prepared for the fact that courts charge fees for filing legal documents. The fee for filing initial divorce papers in Wyoming is $120 (Wyo. Stat. § 5-3-206(a)(i) (2022).) Because filing fees are always subject to change, you can call the court clerk's office ahead of time to confirm the amount and ask about the methods of payment that are accepted.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fee, you ask for a waiver by filing an "Affidavit of Indigency and Request for Waiver of Filing Fees." You'll need to provide detailed information about your income, assets, and debts.
Once you've filed the divorce complaint and accompanying forms, you must deliver the file-stamped documents through a legal procedure known as "service of process." In Wyoming, you have 90 days from when you filed the complaint to serve your spouse with the paperwork. The court will dismiss your divorce case if you miss that deadline, which means you'll have to start all over. (Wyo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4(w) (2022).)
Wyoming allows different ways of serving your spouse:
If you haven't been able to find your spouse, despite making serious efforts to do so, contact the district court clerk's office to learn about alternative methods of service, such as publishing a notice about the divorce in a newspaper.
After you've filed and served the divorce papers, pay attention to the next steps needed to move your case along.
Ordinarily, a defendant spouse has 20 days to respond to the complaint after receiving the divorce papers. The time is extended to 30 days if you served your spouse outside of Wyoming. (Wyo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 12(a) (2022).)
When your spouse does file a response, it will usually be in the form of an "Answer" that agrees or disagrees with some of all of what you've stated or requested in your complaint. (Answer forms are available on the court's website.) A defendant spouse might also file a "Counterclaim," which is essentially a way of countersuing you for divorce.
If your spouse doesn't file an answer within the allotted time, you may apply for a default divorce. The judge may then hold a hearing and sign a divorce judgment that grants anything you've requested in the complaint.
If you have minor or dependent children, both you and your spouse must file a Confidential Financial Affidavit with the court. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-308 (2022).) This form contains detailed information about your income and expenses. You'll also have to attach documentation, such as tax returns and pay stubs.
It's a good idea to gather as much of this information in advance as you can, because it's important to be as thorough as possible in completing these forms. You must be totally honest, because a spouse who fails to disclose all the requested information could face penalties, such as fines and possibly jail time.
In cases where there are children involved, the judge may order you and your spouse to complete a parenting education course. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-201(f) (2022).) Classes typically address issues such as:
Many of these courses are offered online. If you've been ordered to take the class, you'll need to file a certificate of completion with the court before you can finalize your divorce.
Wyoming has a 20-day waiting period (starting when you file the divorce complaint) before the judge may sign your final divorce decree. (Wyo. Stat. § 20-2-108 (2022).)
As a practical matter, however, the actual timeline for finalizing your divorce can be somewhat—or a lot—longer than that. How long it takes in your case will mostly depend on whether you have an uncontested or contested divorce.
If your spouse filed an answer that agreed with everything in your divorce complaint, you'll have to file some final forms, including:
Some Wyoming counties allow you to get your divorce decree without attending a hearing. If that's the case in the county where you filed your complaint, you may file an Affidavit for Divorce Without Appearance of Parties. A judge will then review all of your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign your divorce decree.
If your county requires a divorce hearing, even in uncontested cases, you'll need to file forms to request a hearing. Then, once it's scheduled, you'll have to attend the hearing. The judge will review your papers and ask you some questions before signing the decree.
If your spouse didn't file an answer to the divorce complaint within the allowed time period, you'll need to submit two forms:
Bring the signed originals and two copies of these forms, along with a blank Entry of Default, to the court clerk's office. Depending on the rules in your county, you may also need to request a default hearing. Be sure to mark "default" on the divorce decree that you give to the judge.
Most couples who start the divorce process with contested issues eventually settle their disputes—usually with the help of their lawyers, a mediator, or both. But it can take several months to get to that point, depending on the complexity of the issues in your case. If you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the issues for you. This is by far the longest and costliest route to obtaining your divorce decree, and can take a year or more.