by Steve Harton
A divorce in Wyoming gets considerably more complicated, and usually more expensive, if there are minor children involved. When a divorcing couple has minor children, the Complaint for Divorce must contain more information, the Stipulation and Agreement and the Divorce have more terms, and are therefore longer. Finally, there are additional documents that have to prepared.
Minor Child Defined
Initially, we must define who is a minor child, in the context of a divorce. Under Wyoming law, the following persons are minor children:
- Children under the age of eighteen, who has never been married, and who are not in the active military service of the United States,
- Children who are under the age of twenty (20) and attending high school or an equivalent program as full time participants
- Children who are mentally or physically disabled and thereby incapable of supporting themselves.
Furthermore, natural or adopted children are treated the same in a divorce proceeding, even if one spouse is a natural parent, and the spouse adopted the child.
Divorce Complaint with Minor Children
Whenever minor children are involved, the divorce complaint must contain additional information. It must state the facts necessary to give the Court jurisdiction (or the power) to make a child custody decision. Generally, this means that the children have lived in Wyoming for the previous six months. There are other situations where the Court may not exercise its jurisdiction over the children, such as pending court cases in Wyoming or other states involving the children. Other situations like that may include cases where the children have guardians who are not their parents, or if there are current child neglect or child delinquency cases involving the children.
Therefore, a complaint for divorce must include a sworn statement that lists the following information:
- Where (county and state), and with whom (name and relationship) the minor children have lived during the past five years
- Whether there are any other court cases involving the minor children pending in any other state
- Whether or not anyone other than the divorcing couple has, or claims to have, custody of the minor children
In addition, the complaint should state who has custody of the children now, who should have custody of the minor children after the divorce, and who should pay child support.
Stipulation and Agreement for Divorce with Minor Children
The Stipulation and Agreement for Divorce is a document that is filed with the Court setting out the divorcing parties’ agreements regarding child custody, support and visitation. Attorneys draft these so that the Divorce Decree does not have to include all the visitation (and detailed property division) terms. The Stipulation includes who has custody, and the other parent’s visitation rights. The standard terms in Wyoming are every other weekend, one weeknight each week from after school until about 8:00, alternating holidays (Christmas, New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving), and six weeks in the summer. Most stipulations also set out special visits like mother’s/father’s days, family reunions, etc. In addition, the Stipulation also specifies which parent will get the tax deductions. In divorce cases where parties reach agreement, these are usually split or alternated, but the IRS default is that the custodial parent gets them.
Divorce Decree with Minor Children
The Decree of Divorce with minor children will include the names and dates of birth of the minor children. It will also generally grant joint legal custody of the children to the parents, but will grant primary physical custody of the children to either the mother or father. The Decree will also specify the amount of child support to be paid, and award the tax credit to one of the parents. The Decree generally references the Stipulation for the visitation terms, and does not include the specifics.
Income Withholding Order
Whenever the Court orders one party to pay child support, an Income Withholding Order must be entered. This Order is signed by the Judge, and orders any employer of the non-custodial parent to withhold a portion of his/her income for child support.
Confidential Information Statement
Wyoming law requires that a proposed income withholding order be accompanied by a Confidential Information Statement. This document contains the name, date of birth, state of birth, social security number, address, employer, and employer’s address of each parent. In addition, it includes the name, date of birth, state of birth, social security number of each of the children. This information is used by the courts and child support enforcement agencies to keep track of child support payments.
Notice to Payor
A Notice to Payor is a document that informs the employer of the non-custodial parent how much child support to withhold, and where to send that child support. It will contain the address of the Clerk of District Court in which the divorce decree was entered, because under Wyoming law, all child support payments are required to be made through the Clerk of Court.
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By Steve Harton