Divorce in Montana: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated March 22, 2024by Unbiased team

This article takes you through divorce proceedings and associated costs in the state of Montana.

Summary

  • Montana is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove any wrongdoing to apply for a divorce.

  • The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.

  • Montana is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you can get a divorce without proving that your spouse did something wrong.

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the different types of divorce in Montana?

Montana is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove any wrongdoing to apply for a divorce.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.

Divorces can be contested or uncontested.

  • A contested divorce occurs when the spouses disagree on one or more issues related to the divorce, such as the grounds for divorce, the division of property, the amount of alimony, the custody of the children, or the amount of child support. A contested divorce usually requires a trial, during which the judge will decide these issues after hearing evidence and arguments from both sides.

  • An uncontested divorce is when the spouses agree on all the issues related to the divorce or when one spouse does not respond to the divorce petition filed by the other spouse. An uncontested divorce usually does not require a trial and can be finalized more quickly and cheaply than a contested divorce.

How much does a divorce cost in Montana?

The expenses associated with a divorce in Montana vary based on numerous factors.

These include the type of divorce, the county where the proceedings occur, the complexity and quantity of issues at hand, the necessity for legal counsel, and the requirement for specialized services.

However, some of the common costs that may be incurred in a divorce are:

  • Filing fees cover the costs associated with submitting and processing divorce documents. These fees fluctuate depending on the county but typically amount to around $100.

  • Service fees pertain to the expenses incurred for serving divorce papers to your spouse. Costs vary based on the chosen method of service, typically ranging from $20 to $100.

  • Attorney fees encompass the charges for retaining legal representation during your divorce proceedings. Costs depend on factors like the lawyer’s experience, reputation, location, hourly rate, and the complexity of your case. They can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

  • Expert fees refer to payments made to professionals such as appraisers, accountants, financial planners, psychologists, or mediators hired to assist in the divorce process.

How do you file for divorce in Montana?

The process of filing for divorce in Montana can vary based on the type of divorce sought, but generally follows these steps:

  1. Establish eligibility: To file for divorce in Montana, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing.

  2. Prepare and file divorce papers: The spouse initiating the divorce, known as the petitioner, must draft and file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document outlines basic marriage details, grounds for divorce, and requested relief, including property division, alimony, and child custody. The petitioner must then serve these papers on the respondent.

  3. Await respondent's response: The respondent has 21 days to submit an answer to the divorce petition indicating agreement or disagreement with the petitioner's claims. They may also file a counter-petition stating their own claims. Failure to respond within 21 days could impact their ability to contest or influence the divorce outcome.

  4. Negotiate settlement or proceed to trial: If both spouses agree on divorce terms, they can sign a Marital Settlement Agreement outlining property division, alimony, and child custody. This agreement is submitted to the court for approval, along with a proposed Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If no agreement is reached, the case proceeds to trial.

  5. Finalize divorce: The divorce becomes official upon the judge's signing and the court clerk's entry of the Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. Montana imposes a mandatory 20-day waiting period post-filing before finalization.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Montana?

Montana is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will divide the marital property fairly and reasonably, but not necessarily equally.

The court will consider various factors, such as:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of the marital property

  • The value of each spouse’s separate property

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce

  • The needs and liabilities of each spouse

  • The tax consequences of the property division

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The age, health, income, and employability of each spouse

  • The conduct of each spouse during the marriage

  • Any other relevant factors

How does alimony work in Montana?

The court may award alimony to either spouse, depending on the needs and abilities of each party. The court will consider various factors, such as:

  • The income and expenses of each spouse

  • The health and earning capacity of each spouse

  • The needs and obligations of each spouse

  • The length and quality of the marriage

  • The presence or absence of minor children in the home

  • The tax consequences of alimony for both parties

  • The fault or misconduct of either party

  • Any other relevant factors

What happens to children during a divorce in Montana?

If you have children under the age of 21, you will need to address the issues of child custody and child support in your divorce.

Child custody refers to the legal and physical rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding the care and upbringing of the children.

The court will determine the custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the children.

Child support is a payment that one parent makes to the other parent to help cover the costs of raising the children.

How can I protect my finances when going through a divorce in Montana?

Experiencing a divorce can be emotionally taxing, especially regarding financial matters.

To safeguard your assets and plan ahead, consider the following:

  1. Organize Your Finances: Before initiating divorce proceedings, gather essential financial documents like tax returns, bank statements, and retirement accounts. Compile a comprehensive list of assets and debts, both joint and individual. This groundwork will facilitate fair property and debt distribution during negotiations.

  2. Explore Mediation: Mediation offers an alternative route for resolving divorce-related issues such as asset division, spousal support, and child custody. Collaborating with a neutral mediator can streamline the process, reducing time, costs, and stress compared to traditional court proceedings.

  3. Evaluate Social Security Benefits: If your marriage lasted a decade or more, you could be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse's record. This income stream can be invaluable during retirement, particularly if your ex-partner had higher earnings. However, eligibility hinges on specific criteria, so assess your situation carefully.

  4. Consult with a Financial Advisor: Divorce often triggers significant financial adjustments. Seeking guidance from a financial advisor with expertise in divorce matters can help you navigate this transition effectively. They can provide tailored advice, assist in crafting a post-divorce financial plan, and address any concerns you may have about your financial future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.