Divorce Law in Montana
Divorce Law refers to the legal termination of a marriage and often involves working through several complicated issues. Are you facing a costly divorce in Montana? Does your estranged spouse have an attorney? Usually, couples going through a divorce are unable to compromise on most items and reach an agreement on their own. Thus, many couples go through mediation or the court system to resolve their case.
Issues Involved in Montana Divorce Law
There are many complicated issues that you need to settle during the divorce process. Many of these elicit strong emotions from one party or the other, resulting in volatility.
One of the most challenging issues in the divorce law process is dividing property, debts and assets. In many states, like Montana, anything you and your spouse purchased over your marriage is subject to division. This includes things such as real estate, bank accounts, cars, stocks, etc. Some states split marital property evenly, while others go along an equitable split. In the latter, the judge weighs the contribution each spouse made to the marriage and uses that information to decide the disposition property, which may not equate to a perfect 50/50 division of your property, debt, and other assets.
Both parents are responsible for paying for the care of their children. There is a child support guideline that helps determine how much each parent should contribute based on their income and the amount of time they spend with the children. Child support pays for things such as healthcare, food, clothing and other basic needs.
Montana Guidelines for child support are based on a formula in which both parents’ incomes are considered. The Guidelines also take into consideration the amount of time the child spends with each parent, as well as childcare and health insurance costs. Child support payments can be paid online through the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services. CSSD can enforce payment through income withholding, property liens, tax refund intercept, credit bureau reporting, and passport and driver’s license suspension. Additionally, Montana Code allows the court to find the delinquent parent in civil contempt, which may end in fines and jail time.
Alimony, or spousal support, can vary dramatically depending on the marriage, and Montana divorce law court looks at multiple factors when determining the amount and length of alimony, including:
- A spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay
- The age and health of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s earning capacity and level of education
- The division of property
- Parental responsibility of the children
- Sole investments and assets of either spouse
Montana law allows for temporary, short-term, or permanent maintenance. Temporary maintenance provides support during the divorce proceedings. Short-term or rehabilitative maintenance is awarded for job training or education to help a spouse reenter the workforce. Permanent maintenance is typically awarded in longer marriages if one spouse can’t become self-sufficient. The judge will not consider the marital misconduct of either spouse when making a decision about maintenance.
Child Custody and Visitation
Child custody is perhaps the most emotional issue during a divorce that involves children. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the court bases all decisions on what is in the best interest of the child. Keeping this in mind may help navigate the rough waters of custody.
Under Montana Code, the courts will consider the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes, and the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community when determining the parenting plan. Additionally, continuity and stability of care is considered, along with any history of domestic violence or substance abuse. If a parent is in the military, the court cannot determine the best interest of the child based only upon the parent’s military service.
Generally, Montana courts award joint legal custody giving both parents the legal right to make decisions for the children, such as education, medical care and religious practices. Legal custody has nothing to do with physical custody or visitation. Joint custody does not mean both parents split time with the child evenly, just as sole legal custody does not bar the non-custodial parent from visiting the child.
The Process of Going Through Divorce Law in Montana
Are you leaning towards getting a divorce from your partner? If so, it is important to understand the necessary steps of the Montana divorce law process.
Step 1: File the Divorce Law Petition
The divorce law process begins when one spouse files a legal petition to terminate the marriage. The petition must include:
- A legal reason for divorce (grounds for divorce)
- A statement that shows at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce
- Other statutory information your state requires
Most states offer the option for filing a no-fault divorce, which does not require a legal reason for the divorce.
Montana Courts will allow a no-fault divorce if the couple has lived separately for more than 180 days. Alternatively, there must be serious marital discord with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
Step 2: Request Temporary Orders
The divorce law process in Montana can take several months, and in some cases, spouses cannot wait that long for judgments, but temporary orders can be requested and approved for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Property restraining orders
- Status quo orders
Request temporary orders as quickly as possible so you are not absent the resources or protection that you need.
Step 3: Serve Your Spouse and Wait for Their Response
If you are the one who files a petition for divorce, you must have your spouse served with their divorce law papers and then file a proof of service with the courts. If your spouse accepts service, then they need to fill out an affidavit to that effect. However, in many cases, the petitioner must hire a process server or sheriff to formally serve the petition on the other spouse. It is this third-party who then records the proof of service.
Step 4: Try To Come to an Agreement
The best outcome for anyone going through this process is to have an uncontested divorce, meaning both spouses agree on all issues.
This can be reached between both partners or with the help of a mediator. Not only will this save each spouse money, but there will typically be a lot less animosity.
Step 5: Go To Court
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, then the case continues before a Montana judge. While there is some benefit to having a judge hand down orders, it may also be a detriment as there is little to no control of the agreement by the parties. In Montana, the District Courts handle divorce cases. Montana is divided into 22 Judicial Districts, with 56 District Judges.
Step 6: Receive the Judgement of Divorce
The divorce law trial will end with the official judgment of divorce, ending the marriage. This final dissolution of marriage sets out the details about property and debt division, child custody and all relevant issues between the couple.
Work With an Experienced Montana Divorce Law Attorney
If you are going through a divorce and are unable to reach an agreement with your partner, you should hire an experienced Montana divorce law attorney. A lawyer will fight for you and make sure you get what is yours. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Montana state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!