How to File Divorce in Montana

How to File Divorce in Montana

The ruggedly-beautiful “Big Sky” state of Montana has one of the worst divorce rates in the country, unfortunately.  If you find your marriage headed towards divorce you need to know the basic legal situation and key points to know how to file divorce in Montana.

No fault only

Montana has only “no-fault” grounds for divorce.

That means that the only option for getting divorced is to say that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  This requires a finding that there is “no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.”

If the parties both say the marriage is dead then the divorce must be granted.  

If one party says the marriage is broken and the other denies it, then the judge must either grant the divorce or delay a ruling by 30 to 60 days. That time can allow a couple to reconcile, but in reality, if at least one spouse wants out of marriage the court is not going to force them to stay married.

Montana law does specifically list some actions that can be evidence of irreconcilable differences.

Living separate and apart for 180 days is the most obvious one.  The court will also look for “serious marital discord.”

Must be a resident

One of the spouses seeking divorce in Montana is normally required to have lived in Montana for at least 90 days before the case was filed. 

A chance to get back together

The state does still have a provision called “conciliation” that allows the court to refer a couple to a pastor, psychiatrist, physician, attorney, social worker, or another person qualified to help a couple get back together.  

These efforts are rarely successful and the provision is largely a relic of anti-divorce laws.

Separation is possible

Like many other states, Montana will get involved in enforcing a legal separation.

This is where the court can order things like child support and custody arrangements, but the legal bond of marriage will not be permanently dissolved. This is occasionally a good arrangement for couples that are no longer emotionally involved, but who do not want to lose the financial benefits of being married.  

Montana tries to make it easier

Montana has adopted a handful of simple forms to ease the divorce process.  Most important is the option for a joint dissolution, with or without children.

Studies show as much as 40% of the population cannot put their hands on $400 to manage an emergency expense.  Those people do not have complicated divorces that take a lot of lawyers. 

A joint petition for dissolution of marriage is simple

A joint petition for dissolution of marriage (what Montana calls divorce) is relatively simple.  A couple filing a joint petition without children just has to list their basic biographical information (name, address, age), date of marriage, date of separation, and any requests for spousal support.  

A separate form is required for summarizing the couple’s assets and how they have agreed to have them split.  

Of course, the form is much more complicated if children are involved. The couple has to also submit a parenting plan that covers things like parenting time, vacation, medical care, and more. Income and agreements for one spouse to pay child support must also be addressed.

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