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Know the Laws: Wyoming

UPDATED October 20, 2012

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a lawyer in your community for more information on custody. Go to the WY Where to Find Help page for a listing of organizations that can help.


back to topWhat options are there for legal custody?

Legal custody may include joint, sole, or shared custody, as long as it is in the best interest of the child. A court will make a decision on legal custody based on what it thinks is most practical and beneficial for the well-being of the child.* The following are some factors the judge may consider when making his/her decision:

a) The quality of the relationship each child has with each parent
b) The ability of each parent to provide adequate care for each child
c) The competency and fitness of each parent
d) Each parent’s willingness to accept parenting responsibilities
e) How the parents and each child can best maintain and strengthen a relationship with each other
f) How the parents and each child interact and communicate with each other, and how this interaction may be improved
g) The ability and willingness of each parent to allow the other parent to provide care without intrusion and respect the other parent’s rights and privacy
h) Geographic distance between the parent’s residences
i) The current physical and mental ability of each parent to care for each child
j) Any additional factors the court believes are relevant*

If you have sole legal custody (also referred to as primary custody), then you are the parent who has the ultimate decision-making responsibility for the child.

If you have joint or shared legal custody of your child, it means that you share the right to make major decisions about your child with the other parent. Joint legal custody is sometimes referred to as “joint custody”. Both parents have the right to make decisions affecting the child even though only one parent has physical custody (your child lives with only one parent). Joint legal custody allows both parents to have a say in major issues like where your child goes to school, whether s/he will have surgery and what kind of religious training s/he receives.**

*W.S. § 20-2-201(a)
** Drake v. McCulloh, 43 P.3d 578 (Wyo., 2002)

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back to topWhat options are there for physical custody?

In Wyoming, if you have sole physical custody of your child, then your child lives with you and not with the other parent. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes said to have "primary physical custody" of the child. A parent with physical custody is responsible for the physical care and supervision of the child*, and decisions that affect that care. The fact that the other parent has visitation does not change this.

Joint or shared physical custody is where your child lives with both you and the other parent, splitting her/his time between both homes. Although the child spends time with both parents, the time may not necessarily be split equally. When there is joint physical custody, both parents share the rights of making day-to-day decisions about your child and the responsibilities of caring for your child. Some things that parents with joint physical custody will both be responsible for include: feeding your child, bathing your child, arranging medical care for your child, participating in your child's education and putting your child to bed at night. Because parents with joint physical custody usually have joint legal custody as well, it also means that both parents share the right to make major decisions about your child.

Here are some examples of joint physical custody:

- Your child spends 3 days a week with you, and 4 days a week with the other parent
- Your child spends one week, month or year with you and then the next week, month or year with the other parent.

If you have sole physical custody and the other parent has visitation rights, then this is not joint physical custody. This is true even if the other parent has a large amount of visitation time.**

*W.S. § 20-5-202(xiv)
**Resor v. Resor, 987 P.2d 146 (Wyo.,1999)

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Thank you to the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault for assisting us in gathering this information.

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