How to File for Uncontested Divorce in Montana

Spouses contemplating separation should consider the option of an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties tend to agree on the issues involved in the divorce and are able to come to a mutual settlement. This uncontested process is simpler than the lengthy and expensive contested divorce process.

This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Montana uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

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Uncontested Divorce in Montana Defined

In the state of Montana, a lawsuit for divorce is called a dissolution of the marriage proceeding. Spouses seeking to file for an uncontested divorce should file for a joint dissolution (also called a summary dissolution). A summary proceeding, like an eviction, is designed to move a legal matter through the court system very quickly and at low cost to the litigants.

The hallmark of a joint dissolution is an agreement between the spouses. When the spouses make a joint filing for divorce, they are essentially agreeing on the terms under which they want to receive their divorce. Unlike a contested divorce where a judge rules on all of the important issues, the spouses in a joint dissolution proceeding in Montana decide how the judge should rule instead.

Requirements for Seeking a Montana Uncontested Divorce

To file for uncontested divorce in Montana, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Montana divorce attorney or family lawyer.

The first requirement for seeking a joint dissolution in Montana is meeting the Montana residency requirement. At least one spouse must have resided within Montana for at least 90 days prior to getting a dissolution of marriage.1  Additionally, if there are children born of the marriage, the children must have resided in Montana for at least six months.2

Next, the spouses must prove that sufficient grounds exist to end he marriage. In Montana, the ground to seek an uncontested divorce is called an 'irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.'3  This means either (1) the spouses have lived separately for at least 180 days prior to filing for divorce or (2) there is a serious marital discord affecting the spouses.4

Finally, the spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce. This is most effectively done by filing a legally-binding separation agreement along with the joint dissolution petition.

On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements

When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.   

In Montana, a fully completed separation agreement will address three key issues: Parenting of children the children, spousal support, division of property and debts. Parenting includes a discussion of visitation, custody, education, and medical requirements the child may have. Spousal support in the amount of money one spouse must pay the other monthly to help transition the spouses into living separately (the amount of spousal support can be $0 if the spouses wish). Finally, the most important property and debt division issue is determining who gets access to large items like the marital residence, vehicles, and life insurance proceeds.  

If the marriage resulted in minor children, the spouses may propose amounts for child support and medical expenses for the children, but the court will check the amount of child support against the spouses’ financial information to ensure the amount of child support is appropriate. If the court finds that the suggested child support is inappropriate based on Montana’s child support formula, the court will correct the spouses’ agreement for them and list a proper child support amount.

The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Montana

Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:

  1. This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
  2. If you are proceeding without the assistance of an attorney, you and your spouse should begin by filling out the joint dissolution of marriage petition and separation agreement. For simplicity, the Montana judicial branch has provided a series of self-help forms and a guide to divorce on its website.5
  3. Next, you must determine which court you should file your petition in. You need to file for divorce in thedistrict court in the county in which the residence requirement is met.
  4. You and your spouses should then file your joint dissolution of marriage petition and attach the agreement and parenting plan (if applicable).
  5. The spouses should then request a dissolution without a hearing by filing a joint affidavit with the court containing the following: swearing to the residence and ground requirements; financial disclosures as required by law; the separation agreement; a proposed decree of divorce; and a waiver of the right to personally appear in court.6
  6. The judge will approve your separation agreement and sign a decree of dissolution of marriage, which finalizes your divorce.

If you would like more information on navigating the Montana court system without an attorney, the Montana judiciary recommends a self-help guide on its website that was created by a reputable legal non-profit organization.7

Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. M.C.A. § 40-4-104.
  2. M.C.A. § 40-4-211.
  3. M.C.A. § 40-4-107.
  4. M.C.A. §40-4-104.
  5. .
  6. 40-4-108, MCA.