Wyoming Separation Agreement Law

Divorce – Separation Agreements – Wyoming

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in Wyoming, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: Separation and Property Agreements may be entered into before a divorce is filed to be effective immediately. Subject to the requirement that they be “fair and equitable”, property settlement agreements serve as a contract between the parties and, once incorporated into the decree, enforced as an order of the court.

Property Setlement Ageements are governed by Wyoming case law and general principles establishing thesupporting the rights of the parties to contract; the general divorce laws; and the duty of the courts to fairly and equitably divide the property of the parties and provide for support where necessary under the circumstances.

Wyoming statutes do not contain express provisions relating to property settlement agreements. Separation and Property Agreements are analyzed under the general principle that the courts wil make a fair and equitable distribution of the marital property.

Statutes:

Disposition of property to be equitable; factors; alimony generally:

In granting a divorce, the court shall make such disposition of the property of the parties as appears just and equitable, having regard for 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 and the burdens imposed upon the property for the benefit of either party and children. 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.  Section 20-2-114.

Case Law:

It is firmly established that “[p]roperty settlement agreements entered into by the parties prior to a divorce action are generally recognized and given force and effect in the decree,” Prentice v. Prentice, Wyo., 568 P.2d 883, 886 (1977), and that such agreements are favored by the courts. Clauss v. Clauss, Wyo., 459 P.2d 369 (1969).

In Wyoming, the trial court has great discretion in dividing marital property, Barney v. Barney, Wyo., 705 P.2d 342 (1985), and a trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed except on clear grounds. Piper v. Piper, Wyo., 487 P.2d 1062 (1971). This is consistent with the legislature’s decision that “the court shall make such disposition of the property of the parties as appears just and equitable.” Section 20-2-114, W.S. 1977, 1986 Cum.Supp. The Wyoming courts will not adjust a property settlement incorporated into a divorce decree by a judge absent a clear abuse of discretion – such abuse as would shock the conscience of the court. Grosskopf v. Grosskopf, Wyo., 677 P.2d 814 (1984).

Spouses may define their obligations to one another in a written agreement. David v. David, 724 P.2d 1141, 1143 (Wyo.1986). The courts favor property settlement agreements that the spouses have entered into prior to commencing divorce actions.  David v. David, 724 P.2d at 1143. The divorce decrees usually recognize and incorporate these agreements. Prentice v. Prentice, 568 P.2d 883, 886 (Wyo. 1977). In defining the parties’relative obligations to one another, one spouse may agree to pay spousal support or alimony to the other spouse. As long as it meets the requirements for a valid contract, an agreement for spousal support is enforceable as a contractual obligation. Smith v. Robinson, 912 P.2d 527, 528 (Wyo. 1996).

In Wyoming, it would seem that if the agreement were entered into voluntarily and by competent persons and if the contract were not against public policy or against the best interest of the children, the only proper course for the court was to enforce it, or, rather, not to interfere with it. Beard v. Beard, supra, 368 P.2d 953,955.

Even though property settlements are favored by the courts and are generally recognized in Wyoming, the parties cannot oust a court’s statutory duty to “make such disposition of the property of the parties as appears just and equitable” by entering into a “property settlement agreement” which the judge cannot in good conscience approve and adopt when granting a divorce. Leighton v. Leighton, 81 Wis.2d 620, 261 N.W.2d 457 (1978).


Inside Wyoming Separation Agreement Law