Montana Uncontested Divorce
This information is an overview of the uncontested Montana divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Montana.
To file for a divorce in Montana, one of the spouses must be a resident of Montana for 90 days prior to the filing, and the action should be filed in the county where that spouse has been a resident for the 90 days.
Montana is a No-Fault state, which means "the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage shown by: 1) serious marital discord which adversely affects the attitude of both spouses towards the marriage and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation or 2) living separate and apart for 180 days prior to the filing." Divorce actions are called dissolutions.
Montana permits a legal separation under the grounds of irretrievable breakdown when one of the spouses has been a resident of the state for 90 days.
Actions are filed in the District Court, which is the county court. The spouse filing the action is the Petitioner; the spouse responding is the Respondent. When both spouses file jointly under the stateís simplified or summary divorce law, they are Co-Petitioners.
Montana permits a summary dissolution of a marriage for couples, provided they meet a number of conditions, as follows:
> One spouse or the other has lived in Montana for at least 90 days before the couple file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution;
A hearing is held some time after 20 days from the date the joint petition is filed. Both spouses must appear. If the couple meet all the required conditions, the district court judge enters a final judgment dissolving the marriage. Without a doubt, a summary dissolution is the least expensive and least problematic way to end a marriage in Montana.
> A Joint Petition for Dissolution, which is signed by both spouses;
If both spouses are planning to attend the final hearing, the Consent to Entry of Decree is not required. At the hearing the judge reviews the cases, asks a few routine questions, and then signs the dissolution decree.
When filing a Joint Dissolution (with children), all of forms required for a Joint Dissolution (no children) are required, plus the following:
> A Proposed Parenting Plan, which establishes the terms and conditions of custody and visitation;
As is the case with a Joint Dissolution (no children), when both spouses are planning to attend the final hearing, the Consent to Entry of Decree is not required. At the hearing the judge reviews the cases, asks a few routine questions, the signs the dissolution decree.
The following forms must be used when one spouse files to end a marriage when there are no children:
> A Petition for Dissolution, which is signed by him or her;
Later, the Defendant must file these forms:
> a Notice and Acknowledgment of Reciept of Summons and Petition for Dissolution;
A Respondent who will accept the service of process may be served by mail. In this case, he or she receives the Notice and Acknowledgment, the Petition for Dissolution, the Summons, the Petitionerís Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure of Assets.
Service may also be done by the Sheriff in the county of residence. In this case, the following forms are sent to the Sheriff for delivery: the Praecipe, Summons (original and one copy), Petition for Dissolution, and Petitionerís Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure of Assets, Debts, Income and Expenses.
If service by mail and by the sheriff fail to locate the Respondent, or if he or she will not accept service, the Plaintiff must make a diligent search for him or her. This involves a good faith effort to locate the spouse through exhaustive checks of telephone books, friends, relatives, former employers. If this fails, the Plaintiff must prepare an Affidavit for Publication of Summons, an Order for Publication of Summons, and a Summons for Publication. The summons is then published in a newspaper.
A Respondent who files an answer within 21 days of the date of service may be preparing to contest the dissolution. Contested dissolutions require all the forms used in uncontested actions, but their trajectory is impossible to predict because both the Plaintiff and the Respondent jockey for tactical and strategic advantages in the event the action goes to trial. A Respondent may file a counter-petition challenging some or all of the allegations in the Petition.
If after 21 days, the Respondent has not responded, the Plaintiff prepares the following documents:
> Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and final Decree of Divorce;
A Dissolution of Marriage (with children) requires all of the forms for a Dissolution (no children) plus the following:
> A Proposed Parenting Plan, which describes the terms and conditions of custody and visitation;
Service is identical to the route for a Dissolution (no children). If the Respondent cooperates, he or she receives the Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt of Summons and Petition for Dissolution, Summons, Petition, Proposed Parenting Plan, Petitionerís Preliminary Declaration of Assets, Debts, Home, and Expenses, Notice of filing Child Support Guidelines Affidavit and Notice of Acknowledgment to Child Support Enforcement Division. If he or she is serviced by the sheriff, the Respondent receives Praecipe, Summons, Petition for Dissolution, Petitionerís Preliminarily Declaration of Assets, Debts, Home, and Expenses, Notice of filing Child Support Guidelines Affidavit and Notice of Acknowledgment to Child Support Enforcement Division.
A Respondent has 30 days after the Entry of the Divorce of the Decree to appeal it.
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