Guide to Child Custody Laws in Wyoming
Wyoming parents seeking child custody should make sure they are informed about how the state handles custody proceedings. Child custody laws in Wyoming are slightly different from those in some other states, and you should make sure that you are aware of these laws to have the best chance of obtaining the custody arrangements you want.
Can Children Decide?
While children are allowed to express a preference for staying with one parent or another after a divorce, child custody laws in Wyoming do not permit the child's preference to be the sole determining factor of child custody at any age. Instead, judges will look at the totality of factors, including not only the child's wishes and the wishes of the parents, but many other relevant issues.
Children's wishes are more likely to matter when the child is older and clearly expressing a preference that has been arrived at through reasonable decisionmaking processes. Child custody laws in Wyoming allow judges a great deal of leeway as to how much weight a child's wishes will be given during the custody process.
Most parents prefer to avoid the extra time, money, and heartache that an adversarial courtroom custody hearing would cause. Instead of going through a hearing, parents are allowed by child custody laws in Wyoming to draft a parenting plan for the court's approval.
Parenting plans must divide parental rights and responsibilities in a way that both parents can freely agree to. In general, the court will accept any parenting plan unless it is clear that one parent did not agree to it or if it presents a danger to the child's health or well-being. Parents can develop parenting plans entirely on their own, or, if that does not work, with lawyers or a mediator to help move the process along and resolve disagreements.
If a parent has legal custody of their child, it means that they bear responsibility for major decisions in that child's life, including choices about education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Often, when parents can agree to a parenting plan, legal custody will be shared between the parents. Child custody laws in Wyoming mandate that parents share in the decisionmaking process if they have shared legal custody.
Sole legal custody may be granted if one parent has abandoned the family or has a history of violence that might impact the child. Child custody laws in Wyoming specify that a parent with sole legal custody has no obligation to involve a non-custodial parent in decisionmaking pertaining to the child (although it is allowed).
Physical custody simply means where a child will be living. While child custody laws in Wyoming permit physical custody to be divided 50/50 between parents, realistically this rarely happens. More often, one parent is given primary physical custody, while the other is given a schedule of parenting time that will give them frequent and continuing contact with their child.