Divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in Montana is a permanent uncoupling of your life from your spouse's, with each person receiving a portion of the marital property. If child support or alimony is involved, it may not be a completely clean break. Here are some things to know about getting a divorce in Montana.
Filing for Divorce Without an Attorney
The forms you need to file on your own are freely available on the state's judicial branch website. However, divorce proceedings can get complicated, especially if you cannot agree on important issues like property distribution or child care. In such cases, a lawyer can protect your interests and ensure you understand the legal implications of your agreements.
Beginning Divorce Proceedings
As long as you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least 90 days, you may file for divorce in the county where you live.
The first step is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage outlining what you want in the divorce. If you have children, you will also need to file a proposed parenting plan.
If your spouse does not respond within 20 days after being served with your petition, you may request a default dissolution. The court will award you everything you asked for, assuming it considers your requests fair. You will still need a hearing to have the decree and parenting plan finalized.
If your spouse does participate in the proceedings, there may be additional documents to file. This includes a preliminary declaration of assets, debts, income, and expenses, unless you both agree to waive this requirement. There will also be a final financial disclosure that generally cannot be waived.
Montana is a no-fault divorce state, so you don't need to show that your spouse has done anything wrong. Instead, you must show that the marriage is broken and unrepairable. One way to prove this is to show that you have been separated for at least six months before filing.
Depending on the circumstances, the court may issue temporary orders to address certain issues while waiting for the divorce to be final. Some temporary orders include:
- Temporary maintenance provides financial assistance to one spouse.
- Temporary child support gives the spouse with physical custody of the children help before a permanent support order has been finalized.
- An Interim Parenting Plan outlines living arrangements for the children until your parenting plan can finalized. One reason for requesting one may be if you are afraid the other parent will try to keep you away from the children or even flee with them.
If you think you may need to pursue any of these orders, it is a good idea to have an attorney help you.
Montana requires that property be distributed equitably, meaning fairly, but not necessarily equally. The court may divide all property, even that held in one spouse's name only. The court may consider many factors when determining what is equitable, including:
- The length of your marriage
- The ages of both spouses and their health and financial situations
- The contributions of each to the marriage
If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement on your own, the court will review it to ensure fairness. If you have a premarital agreement, the court will enforce it.
Getting Legal Advice
This article provides information only, not legal advice. Each marriage and divorce case is different and requires its own unique plan. For legal advice on how best to proceed in your case, consult a Montana attorney.