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Wyoming Property Division
Property Distribution Laws in Wyoming

In Wyoming the courts generally accept a fair and reasonable property division the parties agree to, but if the parties cannot agree, the District Court divides the marital estate within the Judgment of Divorce.

Factors in Equitable Distribution

An equitable distribution state, Wyoming uses the "all property" model, and the appreciation of all property is marital. The District Court divides the marital estate when the spouses cannot. Equitable means fair, not necessarily equal.

According to Wyoming Statutes - Title 20 - Chapters: 20-2-114, the court considers:

  • “the respective merits of the parties and the condition in which they will be left by the divorce”; and
  • “the party through whom the property was acquired and the burdens imposed upon the property for the benefit of either party and children.”

In Wyoming, rather than blindly following rigid rules dividing property, judges enjoy discretion, and they consider the aftermath of the divorce, particularly “the conditions each spouse will face alone after the divorce, such as earning potential, medical needs, and childcare costs.”

In Wyoming, if it makes the total division more equitable, the court may also include the separate property of one or both spouses.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

In Wyoming, property acquired or earned during the marriage is community. Property that belongs only to one spouse before marriage is separate. Separate property also includes gifts or inheritances.

Valuing and Dividing Property

First, the court classifies assets and liabilities, property and debt, as marital or separate. Then it assigns a monetary value to the marital property and debt. Finally, it distributes the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable way.

The Marital Home

In Wyoming, as in many jurisdictions, the equity of the marital home is often one of the biggest marital assets. The equity is the market value of the house, less any liabilities against the property, such as a mortgage, taxes, or home equity loans. Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free.

From there, couples choose one of three options to divide the equity:

  • The spouses sell the home and divide the proceeds.
  • One of the parties may refinance the home and “buy out” the other party.
  • One spouse (usually the custodial parent) remains in the home with the exclusive use and possession for a certain period of time (for example, until the youngest child graduates from high school), then either buys out the other spouse or sells the home and divides the proceeds.

Pensions and Retirement Accounts

Several different methods of valuation are used in determining how much a marital asset is worth, depending upon the asset to be valued and the level of agreement between the parties. Courts generally accept the value when the spouses mutually agree on a value of a particular asset. Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. The use of experts adds to the cost of the divorce.

In Wyoming the court may include the retirement benefits and plans earned by both spouses as marital assets available for division. Retirement benefits vary greatly but can generally be divided into two groups:

  • Defined Contribution Plans: A defined amount of money belonging to the employee. The employee and/or the employer make defined contributions. The balance of the plan is constantly changing, but its value is definable at any given point. 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s and profit sharing plans fall into this category.
  • Defined Benefit Plans: A retirement benefit where an employer promises to pay a benefit to an employee sometime in the future, based upon some type of formula. Normally, this formula is based on the employee’s salary near the end of his or her career and the number of years he or she worked for the employer before retirement. Defined benefit plans are much more complicated to value and often require the professional evaluation of an actuary to determine exact values.

In Wyoming if spouses share in each other’s retirement or pension plan, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order must be completed. A QDRO is a written set of instructions that explains to a plan administrator that two parties are dividing pension benefits. The instructions set forth the terms and conditions of the distribution - how much of the benefits are to be paid to each party, when such benefits can be paid, and how such benefits should be paid.

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