Legal Separation in Wyoming FAQs

If you think it's time to have a conversation with your spouse about separation or divorce, you should come to the table fully prepared. Continue reading to learn about the alternatives to divorce in Wyoming.

By , Attorney · Cooley Law School

Divorce and Legal Separation Have Distinct Differences

Every relationship has its rocky points, but if you experience more downs than ups, it might be time to talk to your spouse about what steps you should take next. If you're considering divorce, you're not alone. Nearly 50% of marriages end with one spouse filing a petition (request) for dissolution of marriage (divorce.)

Even when parties experience communication issues in a relationship, most couples can still work together to negotiate the terms of their divorce. You should speak to your spouse about how to divide your marital property, develop a parenting plan for your minor children, and review financial support. The court will resolve any lingering disputes, and once it does, the judge will issue a final judgment of divorce, terminate your marriage, and declare each spouse an unmarried individual.

Legal separation is a divorce alternative that resolves the same legal issues, but in the end, you're still legally married to your spouse. In most states, divorce is permanent, but legal separation can be temporary, which gives married couples the added benefit of the possibility for reconciliation later.

If Divorce and Legal Separation are Similar, Why Choose Separation?

There's no bright-line rule for when it's best to pursue divorce or separation. Relationships are personal, and only the couple knows whether there's a chance for reconciliation in the future. If there is still hope for your marriage, but you need time apart, legal separation makes it easier to resume married life later.

For religious or spiritual couples, divorce might not be an option if you want to continue in your faith. If that's the case, legal separation will allow both spouses the freedom to live a life apart from each other, but both can continue following the practices of the church.

Other typical examples of why couples choose legal separation instead of divorce include:

  • to preserve health insurance for a spouse (it's critical to confirm this with the health insurance company first)
  • to protect valuable federal or military benefits, and
  • to ease the family into a dry-run for divorce.

It's a myth that couples must file for legal separation before divorce. In fact, the legal processes are nearly identical, so if you pursue legal separation but want a divorce later, you may wind up paying legal fees and expenses twice.

Can We Live Apart Without Filing Anything?

Yes. The law doesn't require spouses to live in the same house or act like a married couple. If you and your spouse would like some time away from each other, you can participate in a trial separation, which is where you live in separate homes, but you don't ask the court for intervention.

Most couples can agree on the terms of a trial separation, like how long it should last, who should reside in the marital home, and a schedule for visiting with the children. Trial separations often give married couples the time they need to pursue therapy—or if reconciliation isn't possible—to prepare the family for divorce (or formal separation.) It's important to note that because the court isn't involved in trial separations, you have more flexibility with the terms of your agreement. That said, if either spouse decides to stop the trial separation, the only recourse for the other is to file a formal motion for legal separation or divorce.

Does Wyoming Allow Legal Separation?

Yes, but in Wyoming, it's called a "judicial separation. Residents in Wyoming may file for a judicial separation by demonstrating that they meet the state's divorce requirements. (W.S.1977 §20-2-106.) You'll need to meet Wyoming's residency requirement, meaning at least one spouse has lived in the state for a minimum of 60 days before filing. If you haven't lived in the state for 60 days, but your wedding took place in Wyoming, you can file for a legal separation if you can prove that you have lived in the state since the day your wedding took place. (W.S.1977 §20-2-107.)

Every spouse must be prepared to provide the court with a legal reason—or, grounds—for the request for a legal separation. Wyoming is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither spouse needs to point fingers or place blame for the failure of the relationship. In fact, the court is satisfied when the filing spouse declares that the marriage has suffered irreconcilable differences, or if either spouse is incurably insane and living in a mental institution for at least 2 years. (W.S.1977 §20-2-104-105.)

Wyoming requires a mandatory waiting period of 20 days from the time you file to when the judge can finalize your case. Couples should use this time to negotiate the terms of the separation, including whether it will have an expiration date. Like divorce, the judge will resolve any lingering disputes between the spouses before granting the separation. (W.S.1977 §20-2-108.) If you need immediate court orders, a judge can issue temporary orders as soon as you file. (W.S.1977 §20-2-109.)

Do We Have to Put Our Agreement in Writing?

Yes, every legal separation should have a separation agreement signed by both spouses and the judge. Your order should resolve the same issues as though it were a divorce. For instance, your contract should dictate who will be the custodial parent and primary caretaker for any minor children and include a detailed visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. Your order should also address who should pay child support, each spouse's rights and responsibilities regarding marital property and debt, and which spouse may continue living in (and paying for) the marital home.

The separation agreement does not terminate your marriage like a judgment of divorce, but it offers each spouse protection with a court order on the most crucial issues.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

There's no doubt that hiring an attorney can be expensive. However, the attorney's job is to protect your interests and ensure that you receive the best outcome possible for your case. Although the law allows you to represent yourself in any legal matter, it's always beneficial to consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area before you file.

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