Wyoming Child Custody Rights

By Bernadette A. Safrath
Custody, the most important issue, a divorce
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Parents with children younger than 18 have a responsibility to support and care for their children. During a divorce, custody of those children must be decided: either one parent will receive sole custody or both parents will share custody and continue co-parenting. Wyoming allows parents to make informal agreements regarding custody of their children, but in the event of conflicts, a court can intervene only if the custody agreement is filed with and approved by the court or a custody order was issued by a judge.

Child Custody

Child custody includes both legal and physical custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. The parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions regarding the child's care, including religion, education and medical care.

Custody Orders

According to Wyoming statute 20-2-201, courts are not permitted to give preference to one parent over another based on gender. Wyoming law also requires that even if a parent is not granted custody, he should still receive access to the child through visitation and notification of the child's activities and school conferences. When a Wyoming court issues a custody order, the court can award any combination of sole or joint physical and legal custody. Additionally, custody orders must clearly outline the custody award and the rights of both parents.

Best Interests of the Child

Wyoming courts determine custody like many other states, based on the best interests of the child. The factors examined include: (1) any mental or physical health concern that may hinder a parent's ability to adequately care for the child, (2) each parent's competence and fitness as a parent, (3) each parent's desire to take on all parenting responsibilities, (4) each parent's relationship with the child, (5) each parent's ability to allow the other parent access to the child, and (6) the distance of each parent's residence from the other. Additionally, if there were any incidents of domestic violence or child abuse, the abusing parent is not often granted custody, but will be allowed structured visitation to see his child in an environment that prevents any risk of further harm.

Enforcement

Either parent who feels that a custody order is being violated may file a motion with the Wyoming court to enforce the custody order.The parent accused of a violation must appear before the court and show that she is in compliance with the order. If she fails to do so, she can be held in contempt of court and may be required to pay the other parent's costs and attorney's fees for filing the enforcement motion. Additionally, the court can grant other relief, which sometimes means modifying a custody order if one parent is always in violation.

Modification

In Wyoming, courts require that there be a substantial change in circumstances before a custody order will be modified. The parent requesting modification has the burden of proving the substantial change. A parent's need to relocate is not by itself a substantial change. If the moving parent is doing so in good faith, for legitimate reasons, including improving her standard of living, and the other parent can still exercise reasonable visitation, a court may decline modification of the custody order.