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Know the Laws: Montana

UPDATED September 18, 2017

Basic information about divorce in Montana.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements for divorce in Montana?

The judge can grant you a divorce in Montana if you or your spouse has lived in the state (or was stationed in the state as a member of the armed services) for ninety days before filing the petition for divorce.*

* MT ST § 25-2-118

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back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Montana?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce.  In Montana, neither spouse is required to accuse the other of any fault or wrongdoing to be eligible for a divorce.  To file for divorce in Montana, you (or your spouse) can file a petition stating that your marriage is irretrievably broken (there is no reasonable potential for getting back together).  The judge will decide that your marriage is irretrievably broken if:

  • you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for more than 180 days before filing for divorce; or
  • there is a serious marital discord (disagreement) that negatively affects your or your spouse’s attitude about your marriage.***

If you and your spouse agree about the breakdown of your marriage, the judge will determine whether your marriage is broken by looking at evidence of the above factors.* 

If you and your spouse disagree about the breakdown of your marriage, the judge will have to determine whether in fact the marriage is irretrievably broken by also considering:

  • the circumstances of your divorce; and
  • any potential for reconciliation.**

The judge may continue your case for 30-60 days and suggest that you and your spouse go to counseling if you disagree about the breakdown of your marriage.  At the next hearing, the judge will decide if your marriage is irretrievably broken.****

* MT ST § 40-4-107(1)
** MT ST § 40-4-107(2)
*** MT ST § 40-4-104(1)(b)
**** MT ST § 40-4-107(2)

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back to topCan I get alimony?

Alimony (also called maintenance) is financial support paid by or to your spouse and can be awarded as part of a divorce.  To decide whether or not to award you alimony and for how long alimony will be paid, a judge will consider:

  • your financial resources, including marital property that was awarded to you and any child support you receive for a child living with you;
  • your ability to meet your own needs independently;
  • the time needed for you to get the necessary education or training to find an appropriate job;
  • the standard of living during your marriage;
  • the length of your marriage;
  • you age and physical/emotional condition; and
  • the ability of your spouse to meet her/his needs while paying alimony.*

Note: The judge will not consider the “marital misconduct” of either spouse when making a decision about alimony.*

* MT ST § 40-4-203(2)

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back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce laws in Montana?

The following organizations have links to resources that may be helpful:

  • Montana Legal Services Association has a brochure on divorce (referred to as dissolution of marriage), which includes information on the residency requirements that must be met in order to file for a divorce in Montana.
  • State Law Library of Montana provides a glossary of commonly used legal terms that you might encounter if you choose to get a divorce.
  • State Bar of Montana answers some frequently asked questions about dissolution, including questions about grounds for dissolution and maintenance.
  • Montana Judicial Branch has links to court forms that you may need if you wish to end your marriage.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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