Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal ending of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states like Wyoming commonly grant divorces because forcing a couple to stay married would be against public policy.
“No-fault” and “fault” are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only suitable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. The other states, including Wyoming, permit the parties to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. The Cornell University Law School website, law.cornell.edu, provides a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the United States.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states presently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of the bases for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” One spouse cannot usually stop a no-fault divorce, simply because when one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not, this constitutes irreconcilable differences, which justifies a no-fault divorce. In Wyoming, the no-fault grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences.
Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a particular period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live apart from each other with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Wyoming, the divorce decree is final upon issue of determination, but it is never issued less than 20 days from when the divorce complaint is filed.
Some states also allow fault grounds for a divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. In Wyoming, the fault ground for divorce is insanity which has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least two years.
To file for a divorce in Wyoming, at least one spouse must have resided in the state 60 days prior to filing, unless the marriage took place in Wyoming and the divorce petitioner has lived there continuously. The legal divorce process begins when the filing spouse files a complaint for divorce in the district court of the Wyoming county where either spouse lives.
According to Wyoming law, Wyoming is an equitable distribution state, meaning that when granting a divorce, the court will try to distribute the property in a just manner. Factors that may be taken into consideration include the respective merits of the parties and the condition in which they will be left by the divorce, the party through whom the property was acquired, and benefit of the property for either party or the children.
Divorce laws in general, as well as the specific grounds necessitated for divorce vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a multiplicity of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Wyoming, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Wyoming Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.