Know the Laws: Wyoming
UPDATED December 23, 2016
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.
Custody is the legal responsibility for the care and control of your child (under 18). Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about your child, including decisions regarding education, medical care, and religion. Physical custody refers to the physical care and supervision of your child.*
A custody order can include any combination of joint, shared or sole custody depending on what the judge believes is in the child’s best interests.** As part of a custody order, the judge can order visitation as well. When crafting a visitation order, the judge is supposed to include enough detail to make sure that both parents understand the order and can follow it. The order should also clarify which parent will have to pay the costs of transporting the child to and from the visits.***
* W.S. § 20-5-202(a)(xiv)
** W.S. § 20-5-201(d)
*** W.S. § 20-2-202(a)(i)(ii)
Starting a custody case may not be the path that all parents who are living separately will take. Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don't want to get the courts involved. They may have an informal agreement that works well for them or may think going to court will provoke the other parent or there may be other reasons that a parent doesn't want to involve the court system. Some of the benefits of a custody order are that the order can give you the right to make decisions about your child (legal custody) and the right to to have your child live with you (physical custody). If you decide not to get a custody order, then each parent may be considered to have equal rights to make decisions for the child and to have the child in their home.
While a custody order may help in many ways, generally, a parent may not need a custody order to file for child support as long as child primarily lives with that parent.
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to WY Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.