Legal Separation in Wyoming

by Steve Harton

Divorce or Legal Separation – A legal separation is just like a divorce, but the couple remains married.  Property is divided and debts are assigned.  If there are children involved, then custody, visitation and child support is established.

People occasionally ask us about getting a legal separation instead of a divorce.  Some people would like a legal separation while they try to fix a troubled marriage. However, a divorce would probably be better for them, because if they work through their problems, then they can just get married again.

In order to undo a legal separation, the Parties can petition the Court to be discharged from the order of separation.  The discharge may be easy, but the Parties must agree to it.  Furthermore, combining the Parties’ separate assets might be difficult to do.

Some people think it might be cheaper than a divorce, but it isn’t.

Since a legal separation is just like a divorce, it should only be used in a few circumstances.

Advantages of Legal Separation

Although it is much like a divorce, a legal separation does provide  some distinct advantages to couples in unique circumstances.

Maintain health insurance coverage – In many marriages, one of the spouses provides health insurance coverage through their employment to both parties.  The legal separation can be used to split the parties’ property, but preserve the legal institution of marriage.

This arrangement could be useful for couples near “retirement” age, in order to maintain insurance coverage until medicare kicks in.  This would normally be a temporary situation, and the parties would still need to get a divorce later.

Preserve marital assets – A legal separation could also help a couple where one of the spouses suffers from a disability that creates a potential financial liability.  For instance, some people cannot control their spending, others have substance abuse issues.  Some people have a diminished mental capacity, and are easily talked into signing unfair contracts.  This could be a long term, or even permanent, arrangement.

Preserve the bond of marriage – Some people do not want to divorce for religious reasons.  A legal separation accomplishes everything else a divorce does, but does not end the marriage.  So, a legally separated couple lives just like a divorced couple, but they remain married on paper, and under the laws of their church.

Disadvantages of Legal Separation

The Parties are still married, so neither can marry another person.

In Wyoming, a legal separation is called a judicial separation, and the laws are found at W.S. § 20-2-106.

To view Wyoming’s legal separation statute, click here.

To learn more about legal separation, call the Harton Law Firm at 307-382-5545.

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How much does a divorce cost?

by Steve Harton

“How much will my divorce cost?”

Divorce in Wyoming costs money

Divorce costs money

This is probably the most common question asked by people thinking about a divorce.  The answer depends on what you and your spouse have to divide.

The cost of a divorce in Wyoming will depend on a number of things, but the general rule of thumb is that the more you have, then the more your divorce costs.   So, what are these things that you have that drive up the costs of divorce?


Common factors that increase the cost of a divorce

  1. Minor children
  2. A home
  3. Lots of debt
  4. Professional degrees
  5. Owning a business
  6. Retirement and/or 401k Plans

Minor children always increase the cost of divorce

If you have minor children, your divorce will cost several hundred dollars more  than for couples with no children, even if you agree on the terms of custody, visitation and support.  If you disagree on custody, and fight about it, the cost will be at least a couple of thousand dollars more.

When children are involved, additional divorce documents are needed,  so the cost rises.   These additional documents are the Confidential Financial Affidavit, Confidential Information Statement, Order to Withhold Income, and Notice to Payor.

If you have a custody fight, then you will also have to hire a Guardian ad Litem (GAL).  This is an attorney that represents the best interests of the children, and makes custody and visitation recommendations to the Court.  The cost of a GAL in Wyoming is at least $2000.00.  Fortunately, this cost is usually shared by the two  sides.

Marital home

Whenever a married couple owns a home, they can count on their divorce  costing more.   Even if the home is paid off, it must be appraised, unless the two sides can agree on a value.

If the home was bought during the marriage, things are pretty straightforward: the parties split the equity.  If one of the parties owned the home prior to the marriage, then the Parties split the increase in equity.  The current equity determination is easy (value minus debt).

The equity at the time of marriage is more difficult, and especially if the parties got married a long time ago.  If no agreement is reached, then a real estate appraisal may be necessary.  (In our county, the cost of an appraisal is about $450.00).

Furthermore, determining the beginning price can be complicated by applying non-marital assets to the  debt.  This determination may require hiring accountants to analize the situation.

To learn more about the cost of a divorce in Wyoming, please call (307) 382-5545, or take a look at our Harton Law Firm fee page.

Free Pro Se Divorce Clinic in Rock Springs

Legal Aid of Wyoming is presenting a Free Pro Se Divorce Clinic at the Family Justice Center in Rock Springs.


Date and Time: October 24, 2013, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Location: Family Justice Center, 725 C Street, Rock Springs

You do not need an appointment, just show up.   Check out their flier on this event.

This would be a great opportunity for someone to learn whether or not they would like to try to attempt their own pro se, DIY divorce in Wyoming.

If you have any questions about divorce in Wyoming, please call me at 307-382-5545.

How do I dress for Court?

by Steve Harton

If you have never been to Court before, you may very well ask yourself,  “How do I dress for Court?”

You may have heard people say that you should  dress like you would for church.  However, that is not all that helpful if you don’t go to church.   If, on the other hand, you do go to church on occasion, then it is pretty good advice (unless you are a Catholic going to church in the summer in Florida, or any time of year in Hawaii).*

Basically, you should think of a court proceeding as a serious, dignified event.  This means that your dress should show that you respect the Court, and that you take your court appearance seriously.

You do not need to dress formally, but you should be neat and clean.  Your court clothes should also match your career, or the work that you do.

In other words, if you are a truck driver, and you show up in a  three piece pinstriped suit, you will look silly.  However, if you show up in a tidy, pressed pair of jeans and a nice, single color ironed shirt, you will look great.

If you are a stockbroker or accountant,  you should avoid jeans, and you should probably wear a tie, and least a sport coat, if not a suit.

Just remember, show that you respect the Court and that you take your court appearance seriously.  That said, here are few more suggestions for dressing for Court:

  • Dress conservatively and wear good quality clothing in good condition.  Do not come in clothes with holes in them, or clothes that are dirty.
  • Do not wear shorts, ever.
  • Do not wear loud colors, and do not wear all black (unless you are Johnny Cash, reincarnated).
  • Ladies should not wear short skirts, low cut  blouses, or anything sleeveless.
  • Men should not wear anything sleeveless either.
  • Do not wear flip flops or tall high heels.
  • Do not wear sunglasses, or tinted glasses, even if you have them on the top of your head.
  • Do not wear a hat, ever.
  • Wear only functional, discreet jewelry (e.g., wedding ring or wrist watch).
  • Do not wear team jerseys or athletic appearel – going to Court is not a game.
  • Never wear clothing with vulgar language, or swear words on it.
  • Avoid clothing that promotes alcohol or drugs, as the Judge will not find it cool or amusing.
  • Try to conceal any visible tattoos, unless you are in the Navy or a Marine (I know just about everyone gets tattoos nowdays, but the Judge is probably old school, and still thinks only Sailors, Marines, and former prison inmates have tattoos).

Just remember that most people, including Judges, will judge people (and books) by their cover.  Dress repectfully in the courtroom, follow the suggestions listed above, and you should make a good impression on the Judge.

* I myself am a Catholic.  I grew up in Florida, where we often wore shorts to church in the summer.  I have also been to mass at St. Augustine church on Waikikii beach in Hawaii, and I was definitely not the only man there wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  However, such an outfit would raise many an eyebrow, and draw some disapproving glances, at my parish in Wyoming.