Montana Divorce Laws and Resources

By WomansDivorce Editors

Our Montana divorce page is a one-stop resource where you can get the state-specific divorce help you need. You'll be able to read an overview of the main state laws on dissolution of marriage and find the support services you need. You can also find a qualified lawyer to handle you case or download divorce forms if you decide to handle everything yourself. To figure out the amount of support that would normally be ordered in similar cases, there are options to access the child support guidelines packet which includes worksheets, financial affidavits, and instructions for completing everything.

You'll also get information on parenting classes, divorce recovery groups, and domestic abuse services throughout the state. If you need additional advice and support, you can also read through our various articles on getting a divorce, handling custody and support issues, learning how to cope with the emotional fallout, and more topics by using the main navigation.

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Summary of Divorce Laws in Montana

Complete Online Divorce Statutes - Montana Code - TITLE 40. FAMILY LAW Chapter 4

What is divorce called in Montana?
The legal term for divorce in Montana is called "dissolution of marriage."

What are the Montana residency requirements for divorce?
To file for a divorce in Montana, you or your spouse will need to be either a resident of or stationed in the military in Montana and have lived in the state for no less than 90 days prior to filing for the dissolution of marriage.

Where do you file for divorce in Montana?
A petition for the dissolution of marriage is filed with the county district court where either spouse has residence. The respondent has 20 to file an answer to a response, and a decree may not be entered until 20 days after the petition has been served.

Recognized grounds for divorce and legal separation:
The court will grant a divorce if it is proven that the marriage is irretrievable broken, as determined by:

  • Both spouses stating under oath (or one spouse claims and the other does not deny) that the marriage is irreversibly broken;
  • The couple being separated and living apart from each other for 180 days before filing for a divorce;
  • Serious conflict exists within the marriage and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;

Is there an easy way to get divorced in Montana?
There is a simplified process for divorce in certain circumstances to end a marriage more quickly and simply than the regular dissolution process. This process is called a "Summary Dissolution". To qualify for a Summary Dissolution, the following qualifications must be met:

  • Both parties agree to end the marriage;
  • The wife is not pregnant and there were either no children born or adopted during the marriage, or both parents agree to the parenting plan, child support, and medical support for all children from the relationship;
  • Neither party owns real estate;
  • Unpaid, unsecured debts (either owed solely or jointly) incurred after the marriage do not total more than $8000.
  • Assets total less than $25,000 fair market value (not including secured obligations)
  • Both parties waive the right to alimony;
  • The parties have reached an agreement on the division of martial assets and debts, and have executed all related paperwork to conform to the agreement;
  • Both spouses waive their individual right to appeal the terms of the dissolution or to move for a new trial on the dissolution;
  • Both spouses have read and stated they understand the contents of the summary dissolution brochure.

Is legal separation recognized in Montana?
You can file a petition for legal separation instead of a divorce, unless your spouse objects. A decree of legal separation may be converted to a Dissolution of Marriage after 6 months have passed upon the motion of either spouse. While a divorce or legal separation is pending, either spouse may request temporary alimony, child support for a child of the marriage, or family support. A couple may also enter into a written agreement detailing the division of assets, custody provisions, and visitation for children of the marriage.

What am I entitled to if we divorce?
If a couple cannot mutually agree on how the assets and debts will be divided in their divorce, the court will attempt an equitable distribution of the marital estate with no consideration given to marital misconduct. The court considers all property owned by either or both parties, no matter how the title is held and when or how it was acquired. In making a determination on the division of the marital estate, a judge will consider how long the couple was married, the age, occupation, and vocational skills of each party, the amount and sources of income, custodial provisions, the liabilities and future needs of each spouse, as well as the opportunity to acquire capital assets and income in the future. For property acquired before marriage or by inheritance or gift, the court may consider a spouse's contribution as a homemaker and his or her contribution to the upkeep of the property, and whether the property distribution will serve in lieu of or in addition to maintenance

Will I be able to get alimony?
The legal term for alimony in Montana is "Maintenance". Either party may be awarded alimony if the court determines the dependent spouse lacks the property, resources, or employability to be self-supporting. The court may also consider how long the parties were married, the standard of living established during the marriage, whether it would be appropriate for the custodial parent to work outside the home, the amount of time it would take to receive training to become employable, the age and physical capability of the dependent spouse, and obligated spouse's ability to pay support. Maintenance generally ends when the dependent spouse remarries or if either party dies, unless agreed to otherwise.

Can I revert to my maiden name?
You can request the restoration of your maiden name or a former name in you divorce papers. This makes changing your name after divorce (if you choose) easier.

Who will get custody of the children?
Instead of using the terms "custody" and "visitation", the court now uses the terms "Parenting" and "Parental contact" in reference to issues concerning children of the marriage. For the court to have jurisdiction over these issues, the child must have been a resident of the state for at least 6 months prior to the proceedings.

When parents can't agree on custody and visitation, the court will determine an appropriate parenting plan based on:

  • The wishes and desires of the parents and the child;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including the child's developmental needs;
  • The relationship and bond of the child with each parent, his or her siblings, and any other person who has a significant effect on the child's best interest;
  • The adjustment of the child to his or her home, community, and school;
  • Real or threatened abuse of the child or a parent by the other parent;
  • Chemical abuse or addiction by either parent;
  • Each parents ability to provide continuity and dependable care for the child;
  • If a parent has knowingly failed to pay costs related to birth or to financially support a child when being capable of doing so;
  • Whether both parents have encouraged continuing interaction with the other parent, unless the court finds that such contact would be detrimental to the child's best interest;
  • If it appears there will be continuing amendments to the parenting plan due ongoing conflicts between the parents which would adversely affect the child.

Child Support:
The court takes into account the income and financial resources of each parent; the child's age, financial resources, medical needs, and cost of daycare; the needs of any other person a parent is obligated to support, and the standard of living established during the marriage when determining the level of child support. 

The support obligation continues until a child becomes emancipated or graduates from high school, but not past the child's 19th birthday, unless the parents agree otherwise. Child support payments are to be made by wage withholding unless the court makes a written exception. The amount of support to be paid may be modified in the future if the parents mutually agree or there is a significant change in circumstances. Montana also requires that all orders for child support also include conditions for medical support for a dependent child of the marriage.

Parenting Classes

Families First - Divorced and Shared Parenting Classes 
815 E. Front St. Ste. 3 
Missoula, MT 59802
(406) 721-7690

Domestic Abuse Support Providers

Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence 

Missoula YMCA - Support Groups for Adults and Children. The YWCA provides a safe space for women to begin healing from domestic abuse while being surrounded by others who understand what they have experienced.