This section has basic information about divorce in Montana. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
- What are the residency requirements for divorce in Montana?
- What are the grounds for divorce in Montana?
- Can I get alimony?
- What actions does an automatic economic restraining order prohibit during the divorce?
- What expenses are permitted after an automatic economic restraining order takes effect?
- What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
- Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Montana?
What 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, including being stationed in the state as a member of the armed services, for ninety days before filing the petition for divorce.1
1 MT ST § 25-2-118
What 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,” which means 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 serious marital disagreement (discord) that negatively affects your or your spouse’s attitude about your marriage.1
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.2
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.3
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.3
1 MT ST § 40-4-104(1)(b)
2 MT ST § 40-4-107(1)
3 MT ST § 40-4-107(2)
Can I get alimony?
Alimony, also called maintenance or spousal support, 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.1
Note: The judge will not consider the “marital misconduct” of either spouse when making a decision about alimony.1
1 MT ST § 40-4-203(2)
What actions does an automatic economic restraining order prohibit during the divorce?
When a petition for divorce is filed, an ”automatic economic restraining order” will be issued by the court and served upon the respondent along with the divorce summons. The order will immediately prohibit both parties from:
- transferring, hiding, putting a lien or mortgage on (encumbering), or getting rid of (disposing of) any marital property without the written consent of the other party or permission from the court;
- canceling jointly held credit cards;
- terminating the other’s spouse’s authority to use a credit card;
- racking up (incurring) unreasonable debt except if it is to cover permitted expenses;
- making any withdrawal for any purpose or borrowing from any deferred compensation, retirement, profit-sharing, pension, death, or other employee benefit plan or employee savings plan, or from any individual retirement account or Keogh account except if it is to cover permitted expenses;
- withdrawing or borrowing any part of the cash surrender value of any life insurance policies on either party or any of their children except if it is to cover permitted expenses;
- changing the beneficiary designation on any life insurance policies on either party or their children or on any other account or asset;
- canceling, changing, or allowing to lapse any existing insurance policies for property, life, automobile, or health that insures the parties, their children, or their property;
- negotiating any instrument, check, draft, income tax refund, insurance payment, or dividends payable jointly to the parties or individually to the other party without the personal signature or prior written consent of the other party;
- opening, turning away (diverting), or withholding mail, e-mail, or other electronic communications that is addressed only to the other party; and
- intentionally damaging or destroying joint property or property of the other party while the divorce is ongoing, including any electronically stored materials, electronic communications, or financial records without written consent of the other party or a court order.1
Each party is allowed to do any of the following:
- create, change (modify), or cancel (revoke) a will;
- cancel (revoke) or change a power of attorney; or
- create an unfunded revocable or irrevocable trust.1
1 MT ST § 40-4-126(1)
What expenses are permitted after an automatic economic restraining order takes effect?
After an automatic economic restraining order is issued, there are permitted exceptions to the rules that prohibit spending of marital money. The law says that each spouse can spend marital money for the following reasons:
- for expenses necessary to reasonably maintain the marital standard of living;
- for necessary items, such as:
- necessary health care expenses;
- transportation to and from work; and
- child care;
- in the customary and usual course of operating an existing business; and
- for the purpose of paying a reasonable amount for professional fees and costs related to a proceeding for divorce, custody, child support, and an order of protection.1
If either spouse wants to spend an “extraordinary” amount of marital money, s/he has to file a notice with the court of the proposed extraordinary expenditure at least 14 days before the action is taken.1
1 MT ST § 40-4-126(1)
What 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.
Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Montana?
The following organizations have links to resources that may be helpful:
- 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 divorce, including information on the timeframe of the divorce process.
- 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.
You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.