Wyoming child support laws, article 3-20-2-30, states quote, “the court shall enter orders, temporary or otherwise, pursuant and in compliance with this article for maintenance of children in actions for paternity, support, and any other action for the maintenance or support of children.”
What that means is child support is a legal obligation for both parents in the state-whether married or unmarried. However, that statement is not true in practice, because, in Wyoming custody arrangement and income dictate who pays support. That happens because there exists a presumption that the custodial parent spends his/her share directly on the child.
This situation raises several questions, for example, custodial parents might ask – How much will I get? What happens if the non-custodial parent refuses to pay? And so on.
Non-custodial parents on the other hand need clarity on how the judge decides upkeep amounts. What to do when unable to pay support? And are there ways to end your obligation early?
Below are actionable tips to help you through your upkeep journey.
How to apply for child support in Wyoming
According to the Wyoming Child Support Program (CSE), any parent in the state may apply for services including non-custodial parent location, genetic testing, paternity establishment, child support enforcement, reviewing and modifying child support orders, and all related services.
Additionally, the state’s child support program works under the presumption that;
” A child should receive the same level of support he/she would receive if the parents never split (Melson formula), unless the parents agree to a child support amount approved by the court in accordance to Wyoming child support laws.”
Parents must create a support program account here to apply for upkeep services, then complete the application form.
Alternatively, you may walk into any child support office in your area or call 307-777-6948 to speak to a child support representative.’
What to remember:
- Due to COVID-19, the CSE is currently not charging the $25 application fee.
- You must establish the child’s paternity before receiving a support order (keep reading if the child’s paternity is in question).
- Parents receiving public assistance or TANF benefits do not pay any fees.
- The CSED may order the non-custodial parent to pay for or reimburse paternity services.
- If you need more information, refer to the CSE booklet.
How is paternity established in Wyoming?
According to Wyoming child support laws. If a mother is married at the time of conception or birth. Then the husband is the legal father, and his name shall be added to the birth certificate, unless: the man signs an affidavit disputing paternity or if a genetic test proves otherwise.
Article 4 General provisions 14-2-401 defines three main ways to establish paternity:
- Acknowledged father: signing the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital makes the man the father in the eyes of the law. That means if you sign, then you must pay child support. Hence if you have doubts, do not sign the VAP form at the hospital or support office.
- ‘Adjudicated father’: this happens when a court adjudicates a man to be the father of a child. Note, either parent may petition the court to order the other to take a DNA test.
- Alleged father: the law assumes that a child born to a married mother is the child of the husband.
What to remember:
- A child born to an unwed couple does not have a legal father unless paternity is established.
- Paternity establishment allows parents to seek public assistance and the father may petition for custody.
- Paternity may also be established if the father lives in the same household with the child for the first two years and openly claims to be the child’s father.
- A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is the same as a child support order, meaning if you sign you must pay child support.
- You have sixty days to rescind a VAP form if you signed because of “a material mistake of facts” under duress or if the application was fraudulent.
How is child support determined in Wyoming?
What complicates Wyoming child support laws is that the guidelines use the Melson Formula, the income shares model, and the percentage of income model in estimating child support. Also, WY stat 20-2-307 (a) reads, quote:
“The presumptive child support established by W.S. 20-2-304 shall be rebuttably presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be awarded in any proceeding to establish or modify temporary or permanent child support amounts.
Every order or decree providing for the support of a child shall set forth the presumptive child support amount and shall state whether the order or decree departs from that amount”.
Furthermore, section (B) allows the court to deviate from Wyoming child support laws based on factors including; the age of the child, special educational or healthcare needs, the cost of transportation for visitation, the parent’s ability to provide support, and all other factors deemed relevant by the court.
Dumbed down, what happens during the determination of parental share is:
- The court determines and combines the net income(s) of both parents.
- Cross-reference the combined net income with the State’s child support table to determine the joint support amount.
- The judge then multiplies the resulting amount by the ratio of each parent’s total and net income.
- From there, the non-custodial parent starts paying support.
How to calculate child support in Wyoming
The complexities of these laws mean that the easiest way to estimate your obligation is to use either the Wyoming Support Guidelines calculator here, or download and complete the appropriate worksheet below.
Download the Wyoming child support worksheet (computation only).
What to remember:
- Net income in Wyoming means parental income minus social security deductions, cost of healthcare, mandatory pension deductions, existing child support orders, personal income taxes, and all relevant deductions.
- The courts in Wyoming favour the Melson formula.
How to modify child support in Wyoming
According to Wyoming child support guidelines, parents who believe there has been “a material change in circumstances” may petition the court for a support order change.
What is a material change in circumstances?
Statute 20-2-311 (a) in part reads, “If upon applying the presumptive child support to the circumstances of the parents or child at the time of the review, the court finds that the support amount would change by twenty percent (20%) or more per month from the amount of the existing order, the court shall consider there to be a change of circumstances sufficient to justify the modification of the support order.”
That means a substantial/ material change in circumstances refers to any scenario where a parent’s income changes (increase/decrease) affecting his/her ability to pay. For example, incarceration, change in custody arrangement, job loss, decreased work hours, and so on, are all grounds for a support order change.
Therefore, if you lose your job, the law allows you to petition the court or CSE for a support order change. You may also petition for an increase if the needs of the child change, or if the other parents’ income increases.
What to remember:
- A condition that existed when the custody order was entered into is not a material change in circumstances.
- The burden of proof is on the petitioning parent.
- Parents in Wyoming may petition the court for a support order change whenever they experience a material change in circumstances.
- If you begin receiving food stamps, kid care, POWER, SSI, or other government assistance, the law considers your situation a substantial change in circumstances.
- State laws require the CSE to review and, if appropriate, adjust child support orders upon request every three years.
- The CSE does not review custody or visitation orders.
To request a review, you may visit the local child support office in your area, contact your caseworker, call 307-777-5300, or work with a family court attorney.
What happens if you do not pay child support in Wyoming?
Wyoming child support laws allow the courts or CSE to use any of the following enforcement tools to collect child support. First, all support orders must contain income withholding, meaning, employers collect child support directly from the paying parent’s salary, wages, bonuses, etc.
If income withholding fails, the court or Support agency may:
- License suspension: Through other state agencies, the CSE may suspend the paying parents’ drivers, professional or recreational licenses.
- Automated enforcement tools: failure to pay support may trigger automated enforcement tools including financial institution data match, passport denial, federal IRS intercept, and or credit bureau reporting.
- Garnishment and liens: the court may garnish child support from the payor’s bank account or accounts held in other financial institutions. Liens may also be placed on your car or other valuable assets.
- The CSE may intercept state, local or federal tax returns.
Criminal nonsupport VS. Contempt of Court charges in Wyoming
In Wyoming, criminal non-support is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in prison and or a $750 fine.
If the non-custodial parent refuses to pay, the custodial parent may petition the court to hold them in “Contempt of Court”. When or if that happens, the judge will summon the payor for a “show cause “hearing, where the payor will have to explain their failure. What happens next depends on the outcome of the hearing, meaning, the judge may order community service, establish a payment plan, recommend modifications, or in some cases imprison the accused.
What to remember:
- To avoid jail time, a judge may order the accused parent to pay a portion of the owed arrears.
- The judge may refer serious cases for federal prosecution under the Deadbeat program. That usually happens if the payor owes more than $5000 or refuses to pay support for over 1 year.
How to end child support early in Wyoming
Wyoming child support laws permit two ways to end upkeep early. One method only used under very limited circumstances is the voluntary termination of parental rights, where a parent signs away his/her parental rights.
The problem with this option is once the process is done, the petitioning parent will have zero say on how the child is raised. Also, the courts only allow parents to give up their rights when the child is up for adoption, meaning you cannot relinquish your parental responsibility and leave only the mother to provide for the child. The courts may also terminate parental rights if the child is at risk of abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
Emancipation of minors in Wyoming
Wyoming child support laws also permit minors to petition for emancipation.
Emancipation grants the minor the rights of an adult, meaning he/she may lease property or move out at 17. You may also seek emancipation by joining the US military.
More Wyoming Laws