Divorce and Custody
Termination of Parental Rights
Abuse and Neglect Cases
Enforcement of Divorce Decrees
FAMILY LAW ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Represented a man who sought custody of his young daughter after mother moved out of state with the child. The mother had managed to prevent the father from seeing the child for over 30 months. After trial, our client was awarded primary custody of the child, and mother was ordered to pay child support to our client.
Represented a man whose wife had left him for a boyfriend. The couple had a young child. After a hotly contested trial, our client (father) was awarded primary custody. Our client now enjoys his daughter full time, and receives child support paid to him by mother.
Represented a mother seeking custody of two children. Father also sought custody. At trial we presented compelling evidence of the father’s out of control anger and abusive behavior, and our client was awarded custody of both children. Father appealed portions of the court’s ruling to the Wyoming Supreme Court. We won the appeal. Father later filed a petition to modify the child support that had been ordered, and we were able to have the petition dismissed half way through the trial. Our client was awarded her attorney’s fees for the modification trial.
Represented a woman in a divorce proceeding involving an estate of several million dollars. Our client had not held outside employment for many years, and needed more than half the parties’ income assets to live comfortably. We conducted extensive discovery and retained an expert on the value of husband’s complex retirement, investment, and employment compensation packages. Case went to trial for two days with numerous witnesses. Outcome: Our client received an award of even more than she requested from the court.
Represented a man with substantial assets and a pre-nuptial agreement. Wife, represented by two different attorneys, sought to have the pre-nuptial agreement set aside. After we filed several motions the court held an evidentiary hearing where we brought out the facts in our client’s favor. The court determined that the facts and law we presented supported the enforcement of the pre-nuptial agreement. This will save our client’s property from the wife, and he will likely collect from wife the attorney’s fees he spent to enforce the agreement.
Disclaimer: These descriptions represent brief summaries of actual cases handled by our firm. However, each case is unique and the success described in these cases may not mean that your case or another similar case will result in a similar outcome.
FAMILY LAW – FAQ's
Family law is an area of law centered on the family. It covers things such as marriage; divorce; child custody, visitation, and support; protection orders; adoption; and paternity.
You should always consult an attorney when seeking a divorce. The attorney will guide you through the process, take care of filing requirements, and will help protect your rights. To file for divorce, a complaint for divorce must be filed with the district court. The grounds for divorce can be irreconcilable differences in the marital relationship. The complaint must be properly served on your spouse. To file for divorce in Wyoming, you must have been a resident of Wyoming for at least 60 days prior to filing for the divorce.
Wyoming is an equitable distribution state; that is, a judge will divide property in a fair way, which often, but not always, results in a 50/50 split.
In making this decision, the court may consider:
- 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;
- Who can or should pay the debt associated with the property; and
- the burdens imposed upon the property for the benefit of either party and children.
All property is subject to division in Wyoming and is subject to the order of the court.
– Property owned prior to marriage is usually not divided, and is usually granted to the party who owned it prior to the marriage.
– Property acquired during the marriage, including appreciation of pre-marital property, is usually divided.
– The necessary expenses of the family and the education of the children are chargeable upon the property of both husband and wife, or either of them, for which they may be sued jointly or separately.
– All debts, regardless of the name on the debt, are subject to division in divorce.
– Creditors are not bound by the order of the Divorce court and may pursue the responsible party. This is one reason why it is important to get your name off of debts awarded to the other spouse.
In determining custody issues, the court looks to the best interests of the child. The court considers, but is not limited to, the following factors:
– (i) The quality of the relationship each child has with each parent;
– (ii) The ability of each parent to provide adequate care for each child throughout each period of responsibility, including arranging for each child’s care by others as needed;
– (iii) The relative competency and fitness of each parent;
– (iv) Each parent’s willingness to accept all responsibilities of parenting, including a willingness to accept care for each child at specified times and to relinquish care to the other parent at specified times;
– (v) How the parents and each child can best maintain and strengthen a relationship with each other;
– (vi) How the parents and each child interact and communicate with each other and how such interaction and communication may be improved;
– (vii) The ability and willingness of each parent to allow the other to provide care without intrusion, respect the other parent’s rights and responsibilities, including the right to privacy;
– (viii) Geographic distance between the parents’ residences;
– (ix) The current physical and mental ability of each parent to care for each child;
– (x) Any other factors the court deems necessary and relevant.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-201(a) (2013).
A protection order must be filed with the Circuit Court, with the forms available at the court office. There are two types of family violence protection orders: 1) an ex parte temporary order of protection, where the judge believes you are in immediate danger and makes the decision without hearing the story from the alleged abuser. The temporary order usually last about 72 hours; and 2) a final domestic violence order of protection, which lasts for up to one (1) year and may only be granted after a hearing in front of a judge. If an order is granted, it will be passed to the local sheriff’s office and entered into a statewide database. Family violence protection orders are only available in cases where violence or the threat of violence occurs between household members, which are specifically defined in the law. Protection orders are serious business, so you seek the advice of an attorney to help you with obtaining or defending against a protection order. A person who is the subject of a protection order may not own or possess a gun or ammunition. Sometimes if one party seeks a protection order, the other party will counterclaim for such an order mostly as a defensive move. Since orders of protection can involve temporary orders for custody and possession of the home, you should always consult an attorney when seeking or defending a protection order. In addition to family violence protection orders, stalking orders are available where there is a course of conduct constituting harassment. These do not have to involve household members.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person, usually a lawyer, appointed by the court to separately represent the interests of a minor child or incompetent person. The GAL does not represent you or your spouse, but helps to figure out what is best for your child or children; including custody and support decisions.
To have a marriage annulled basically means the marriage will be declared void or voidable. An annulment is available in very rare situations. Wyoming Statutes control the availability of annulments, and state as follows:
– Marriages in Wyoming are considered void (as if they never existed) if:
– (i) When either party has a husband or wife living at the time of contracting the marriage;
– (ii) When either party is mentally incompetent at the time of contracting the marriage; or
– (iii) When the parties stand in the relation to each other of parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, brother and sister of half or whole blood, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, or first cousins, whether either party is illegitimate.
– A marriage is voidable (e.g. can be declared void or as if it never happened at the option of either party, but may continue on as a legal marriage if the parties so choose) if solemnized:
– (i) when either party was under the age of legal consent unless a judge gave consent (the minimum marriageable age in Wyoming is 16);
– (ii) if they separated during nonage and did not cohabit together afterwards (meaning you are separated prior turning the age of consent and do not live together as husband and wife, or anything similar, after reaching the consenting age); or
– (iii) if the consent of one (1) of the parties was obtained by force or fraud and there was no subsequent voluntary cohabitation of the parties (you cannot force someone or trick someone into marriage, but if this does occur the marriage will be legally binding if you voluntarily live together as husband and wife afterward).
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-101 (2013).
You may file for a restraining order to prevent your spouse from doing anything defeat or render less effective any order which the court might ultimately make concerning property or pecuniary interests. Obtaining this order will prevent your spouse from selling off property or harming your pecuniary interests. Consult an attorney if you need to obtain such a restraining order.
The court may grant a party temporary custody of the children during a pending divorce. Either party to the divorce can apply to the court for temporary custody. The party applying for the order must notify the court of any known protection or custody orders issued on behalf of the parties from any other court. The court will consider evidence of spouse abuse or child abuse as being contrary to the best interest of the children. If the court finds that family violence has occurred, the court will make arrangements for visitation during temporary custody that best protect the children and the abused spouse from further harm.
– The court may decree to either party reasonable alimony out of the estate of the other having regard for the other’s ability to pay and may order so much of the other’s real estate or the rents and profits thereof as is necessary be assigned and set out to either party for life, or may decree a specific sum be paid by either party.
– As stated, a court may grant alimony. However, it will not be granted in every case, and is in no way automatic.
While a divorce is pending, the court may require either party to pay any sum necessary to enable the other to carry on or defend the action and for support and the support of the children of the parties during its pendency. The court may order that either party pay costs during the pendency of the case, or it may direct costs to be paid out of any property settlement. The court may also direct payment to either party any sum due and owing from any third party.
A legal separation is where a court grants an order for a husband and a wife to remain married but live apart from one another. When circumstances are such that grounds for a divorce exist, the aggrieved party may institute a proceeding by complaint in the same manner as if petitioner were seeking a decree of divorce, but praying instead to be allowed to live separate and apart from the other party.
– The court may order anything that the court would order in a divorce, including custody of the children, provision for support, disposition of the properties of the parties, alimony, restraint of either spouse during litigation and disposition of property. The court may impose a time limitation on the order of separation or order a perpetual separation. The parties may at any time move the court to be discharged from the order, or to proceed with a divorce.
A court may require one party to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees during a divorce. However, the attorney’s fees must usually be paid to the attorney up front and rarely will the court order one side to pay attorney’s fees during the pendency of a case. It is not often that the court will require the other party to pay your attorney’s fees.
The court may order visitation it deems in the best interests of each child and the court is required to:
(i) Order visitation in enough detail to promote understanding and compliance;
(ii) Provide for the allocation of the costs of transporting each child for purposes of visitation;
(iii) Require either parent who plans to change their home city or state of residence, to give written notice thirty (30) days prior to the move, both to the other parent and to the clerk of district court stating the date and destination of the move.
– Divorce is a complicate matter and child custody issues are some of the most important issues you may ever face in your life. We have the experience and expertise to help you show the court what is fair, and to present your position in a persuasive manner. We work closely with you and the experts to analyze the facts properly, and to persuade the court what arrangement will serve the best interests of your children.
– Self-help forms, now available online, have tempted may people to try to handle these matters on their own. But people that try to handle these cases on their own often make mistakes that they later regret, sometimes for years to come. An attorney’s help today may help avoid years of regrets or problems down the road.
– Call us to seek competent, affordable help.
Although each case is different and it is impractical to set a standard rate for family law matters, we can assure you that you will get an estimate up front, you will know the amount of the retainer before we do anything, and you will have control over how much you spend in pursuing your case. We strive to be affordable, but we will represent your interests competently and zealously in everything we do.