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Montana Divorce Laws

The following Montana divorce laws are unique to those people who wish to terminate their marriage.

We are providing the important divorce laws in Montana online as an easy reference guide to help you while you are completing your divorce.

Residency Requirements: In order to file for a Dissolution of Marriage in Montana, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:

The district court shall enter a decree of dissolution of marriage if: the court finds that one of the parties, at the time the dissolution of marriage was filed, was a resident of this state, or was stationed in this state while a member of the armed services, and that the domicile or military presence has been maintained for 90 days preceding the filing of the action.

The Dissolution of Marriage is typically filed with in county in which the filing spouse resides. (Montana Code - Section 25 - Titles: 2-118 and Section 40 - Titles: 4-104)

No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested Dissolution of Marriage cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Montana the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:

(A) the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which findings must be supported by evidence: (B) the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of more than 180 days preceding the commencement of this proceeding; or (C) that there is serious marital discord that adversely affects the attitude of one or both of the parties towards the marriage. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-104)

Filing Party Name: The Petitioner or Co-Petitioner. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the Dissolution of Marriage and is the one who actually files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the county court.

Non-Filing Party Name: The Respondent or Co-Petitioner. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested Dissolution of Marriage versus a contested Dissolution of Marriage. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.

Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: District Court for the State of Montana and for the County of __________. All Dissolution of Marriage cases in the state of Montana are facilitated through this court for that particular county.

Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Montana clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: District Clerk's Office.

Property and Debt Division: Montana is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.

If parties are unable to agree, the court shall consider the following when distributing the marital property upon dissolution of marriage: duration of the marriage and prior marriage of either party; the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs of each of the parties; custodial provisions; whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance; and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

The court shall also consider the contribution each spouse had to the acquisition of the marital property; (a) the nonmonetary contribution of a homemaker; (b) the extent to which such contributions have facilitated the maintenance of this property; and (c) whether or not the property division serves as an alternative to maintenance arrangements. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-202)

Changing Name: Upon request by a wife whose marriage is dissolved or declared invalid, the court shall order the wife's maiden name or a former name restored. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-108)

Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.

The court will award support, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant facts including: (1) the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian; (2) the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment; (3) the standard of living established during the marriage; (4) the duration of the marriage; (5) the age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and (6) the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-203)

Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Montana courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.

The court shall consider all relevant parenting factors with the best interest of the children in mind, which may include but are not limited to: (a) the wishes of the child's parent or parents; (b) the wishes of the child; (c) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parent or parents and siblings and with any other person who significantly affects the child's best interest; (d) the child's adjustment to home, school, and community; (e) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (f) physical abuse or threat of physical abuse by one parent against the other parent or the child; (g) chemical dependency, or chemical abuse on the part of either parent; (h) continuity and stability of care; (i) developmental needs of the child; (j) whether a parent has knowingly failed to pay birth-related costs that the parent is able to pay, which is considered to be not in the child's best interests; (k) whether a parent has knowingly failed to financially support a child that the parent is able to support, which is considered to be not in the child's best interests; (l) whether the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is considered to be in the child's best interests unless the court determines, after a hearing, that contact with a parent would be detrimental to the child's best interests. (m) adverse effects on the child resulting from continuous and vexatious parenting plan amendment actions. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-104, 4-108 and 4-212)

Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Montana child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

The court shall determine the child support obligation by applying the support standards, guidelines and worksheets. The court will also consider the following without regard to marital fault or misconduct: (a) the financial resources of the child; (b) the financial resources of the parents; (c) the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; (d) the physical and emotional condition of the child and the child's educational and medical needs; (e) the age of the child; (f) the cost of day care for the child; (g) any parenting plan that is ordered or decided upon; and (h) the needs of any person, other than the child, whom either parent is legally obligated to support.

If the court finds that a delinquency greater than the total of 6 months of support is owed and that the obligated person has the ability to post bond, give a mortgage, or provide security or other guaranty, the court may enter an order requiring the obligated person to post bond, give a mortgage, or provide security or guaranty for so long as there is a support delinquency. (Montana Code - Section 40 - Titles: 4-204, 5-209)

Copyright Notice: These Montana divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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