What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Wyoming?
For the purposes of getting an order of protection, “domestic abuse” is when a member of your household does any of the following things to you:
- physically abuses you;
- threatens to physically abuse you;
- attempts to cause or causes physical harm or acts which unreasonably restrain your personal liberty (i.e., forcibly holding you down);
- puts you in fear of immediate physical harm;
- makes you reasonably afraid that s/he is going to physically hurt you in the near future; or
- makes you have sex or engage in sexual activity by force, threat of force or duress (pressure or coercion).1
If you are being stalked, you may qualify for an order of protection against stalking.
1 Wyoming Code 35-21-102(a)(iii)
What types of domestic violence orders of protection are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of domestic violence orders of protection in Wyoming. If a judge believes you are in danger of further abuse, s/he can issue an ex parte temporary order of protection. “Ex parte” is Latin for “from one side,” which means that the abuser is not notified ahead of time that the order is being issued and is not present in court. This temporary order will last only until your full court hearing when the abuser has an opportunity to tell his/her side, usually within 72 hours.1
To get a final order, you will have a hearing in front of a judge. Both you and the abuser will have an opportunity to tell your sides of the story at this hearing .A final domestic violence order of protection lasts up to three years and may be renewed multiple times for additional periods of time up to three years each.2 See Can I change, cancel or extend my order? for more information.
1 Wyoming Code § 35-21-104
2 Wyoming Code §§ 35-21-106(b), 7-3-510
What protections can I get in a domestic violence order of protection?
An ex parte temporary order of protection can:
- order the abuser to:
- not physically abuse you or threaten to physically abuse you;
- not cause or attempt to cause physical harm to you or commit acts that unreasonably restrain your personal liberty (for example, keeping you locked in a room);
- not place you in reasonable fear of immediate physical harm;
- not make you involuntarily participate in sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress;
- not contact you in any way, either directly or indirectly, including, but not limited to:
- verbal contact in person, by telephone, other electronic means, including e-mail, texting, fax, contacting through social media, using the internet or similar technology, and any other form of communication;
- written communication in any form, including through the mail;
- communication through another person (a “third person”); or
- nonverbal communication and gestures;
- not come to your place of employment;
- not come so close to your place of employment so that it would “upset your life” under any circumstances;
- not come to your home and not enter your home;
- not come so close to your home so that it would “upset your life” under any circumstances; and
- not place you under surveillance;
- immediately leave the home
- not transfer, hide, or otherwise get rid of your property or your joint property with the abuser;
- not abduct, remove, or hide any child in your custody;
- not contact your children at their school; and
- not use or have firearms;
- give you:
- sole possession of your home during the period the order is in effect;
- temporary custody of your children; and
- other terms that the judge believes are appropriate.1
A final order of protection can:
- do everything listed above; and
- include the following additional things:
- as an alternative to giving you sole possession of the home, the judge could order the respondent to provide temporary suitable alternative housing for you and any children that the abuser is obligated to support;
- allow you to get your personal belongings from the home (if you are leaving the home);
- order the abuser to pay you child support and, possibly, temporary financial support for you;
- order the abuser to pay medical costs that resulted from the abuse; (Note: You may also be able to sue for other losses suffered as a result of the abuse in small claims court - see WY Suing an Abuser for more info);
- order the abuser to get counseling;
- order the abuser to do / not do anything else needed for your protection;
- order your wireless cell phone company to:
- transfer to you the right to use any cell phone numbers (yours and your children’s) that were part of a joint account with the abuser or that were in the abuser’s name; and
- terminate the abuser’s ability to use or access any data associated with those phone numbers;
- give you sole possession of a pet, whether the pet is kept or owned by you, the respondent, or a minor child of either;
- prohibit the abuser from having contact with the pet, removing it, concealing it, or disposing of it;
- give the abuser visitation of your children. However, the judge must put protections in place for the safety of you and your children. For example, the judge can:
- order the children to be exchanged in a protected setting;
- order that visitation be arranged and supervised by another person or agency, and if the other person is a family or household member, establish conditions to be followed during the visitation;
- order the respondent to attend and complete to the court’s satisfaction a program of intervention or other counseling as a condition of visitation;
- order the respondent to not drink alcohol or use drugs for up to 24 hours before the visitation and during the visitation;
- order the respondent to pay a fee through the court towards the costs of supervised visitation;
- prohibit overnight visitation;
- require the respondent to post a bond (place money with the court) to secure the return and safety of your children; and/or
- order anything else to keep you, the children or another family or household member safe.2
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
In which county can I file for a domestic violence order of protection?
You can file a petition in the circuit court in the county where you live. If there is no circuit court in your county, you can file the petition in the district court.1
1 Wyoming Code § 35-21-102(a)(ii); § 35-21-103(a)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.