To file for divorce in Montana, at least one spouse must be a Montana resident for a minimum of 90 days. To begin the process, one spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and state the proper grounds for ending the marriage. Since Montana is a purely “no-fault” marriage state, there are 3 proper grounds for divorce:

  • The marriage is “irretrievably broken”;
  • The spouses have lived separate and apart for a minimum of 180 days before filing; or
  • There is serious marital discord that adversely affects the attitude of one or both of the parties towards the marriage

In addition to a required legal reason, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage should also address any other issues involved in the divorce such as dividing property, child custody, child support, and alimony. 

What is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation in Montana?

A legal separation agreement tends to function a lot like a divorce but it does not end the marriage. Similar to a divorce, a separation agreement can be used to resolve issues such as dividing property, child custody, child support, and alimony. If accepted by the judge, a separation agreement is legally binding and can be enforced in court. Generally, a judge will accept a separation agreement if it is agreed to in writing by both spouses and the agreement appears to be fair.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

To start the process for a divorce, Montana offers a short questionnaire which will help users figure out which form they need to fill out. There are many different questions, but some examples are:

  • Whether you and your spouse are married;
  • Is a spouse pregnant and expecting a child;
  • Do you and your spouse have any children under the age of 18;
  • If you and your spouse have agreed on a parenting plan; and
  • If you and your spouse have already talked to the Child Support Enforcement Division.

All required forms for divorce can be found on the Montana Court website

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Montana is an “Equitable Distribution” state, which means that all marital property is divided fairly according to the court unless the spouses make their own agreement. Marital property, also known as community property, consists of most of the assets and debts that a couple acquires during the marriage and is subject to division during the divorce. 

Separate property, is the property that a spouse owned before the marriage or received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance. This distinction is important because separate property is usually not subject to division in divorce. It is important to know that separate property can become community property through actions like placing your spouse on the title of the property.

What Should You Do if There are Children Involved?

As part of the divorce the judge will issue a child custody order and parenting plan that will detail the parental rights and obligations over the marital children. Child custody can be very complicated and stressful, so if you have concerns about child custody it is important to talk to a lawyer. 

Regardless of who retains custody after a divorce or separation, both parents are responsible for supporting the children of the marriage. At the very minimum, the court will order the non-custodial parent to make child support payments.

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

When the judge orders a divorce, it is possible that he will order one of the spouses to make temporary spousal maintenance payments or alimony payments. A judge may impose spousal support if he finds that it is fair based on a number of factors including the length of the marriage, the income of the individual spouses, who has custody of the children, etc. Spousal maintenance payments will end if the spouse receiving payments remarries or moves in with another partner.

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Going through a divorce can be an emotionally charged experience and involves complicated legal issues related to property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, etc.  If you are looking for an attorney to aid you navigate this process, then contact a local Montana divorce lawyer today to get the help you need.