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Montana Marital Settlement Agreement

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The Montana marital settlement agreement is used by divorcing couples to enter into a binding arrangement regarding the distribution of their property, assets, and child custody before their divorce is finalized. By agreeing on the terms of their separation, couples can control the outcome of their divorce instead of allowing a judge to determine the division of their property and other interests. If either spouse wishes to receive alimony or child support from the other party, they must include the payment amount and schedule for these in the contract as well. Once the document has been executed by both parties, it becomes legally binding; however, the terms of the arrangement can be amended in accordance with contract law.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – Montana Code Annotated – Title 40, Chapter 4 (Termination of Marriage, Child Custody, Support)

Alimony (§ 40-4-203) – The court may award alimony, referred to as a “maintenance order” in state courts, to either spouse; however, the support-seeking spouse must prove that they have insufficient means to support reasonably themselves.

Child Support (§ 40-4-204) – Either or both spouses may be ordered to pay child support to the other party in accordance with state child support guidelines.

Division of Property (§ 40-4-202) – Montana is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court is required to apportion the couple’s property and assets in a just and fair manner in consideration of each spouse’s circumstances and the facts of their case; equitable distribution is not always equal (50/50).

Grounds for Divorce (§ 40-4-104 and § 40-4-107) – Couples can file for divorce by declaring one (1) of the following factors as their grounds for divorce:

  • Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
  • The couple has lived apart for a period of more than one hundred eighty (180) days
  • Serious marital discord

Interim Support (§ 40-4-121) – During divorce proceedings, either spouse can request an order for temporary maintenance (alimony) and/or child support.

Residency (§ 40-4-104(1)(a)) – At least one (1) spouse must have been a state resident for at least ninety (90) days immediately prior to beginning legal action for their divorce.

Separation (§ 40-4-104(1)(b)(i)) – To file for divorce on the grounds of separation, spouses must live in separate residences for a period longer than one hundred eighty (180) days.

How to File for Divorce in Montana

Divorce Forms

The below forms are in Microsoft Word (.doc) format.

Uncontested Divorce with No Children:

Uncontested Divorce With Children:

Step 1 – Complete Divorce Paperwork

If a couple is in agreement regarding the terms of their divorce (the legal term in Montana is “dissolution of marriage”) they can file a joint petition for divorce as co-petitioners. This type of uncontested divorce bypasses the need for either party to be served a summons or named as a defendant in the case and is also the quickest, least complicated option for divorcing couples.

Step 2 – File Divorce Paperwork with District Court

The couple will need to file all of the required paperwork for their joint petition with the clerk of the district court for the county in which either spouse is a resident. The petitioners will be given a hearing date and case number by the clerk, who will charge a base filing fee of $200 (the payment and pre-payment of other fees may also be required). In the event that the couple is unable to pay the associated court costs, they can complete and file a Request for Waiving Court Fees to request that the court waives the fees. The court clerk should be provided with pre-addressed stamped envelopes for both spouses if they wish to receive copies of their decree by mail.

Step 3 – Attend Hearing and Final Decree

Both spouses are required to attend their divorce hearing unless one (1) of them filed a Consent to Entry of Decree to waive their required attendance. The judge will review the couple’s proposed property distribution and parenting plan, interview each spouse, and if everything is in order, sign the Final Dissolution Decree at which juncture the divorce will be final.

Step 4 – Name Change

Either spouse may legally change their last name by including the name change in their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Once the divorce has been finalized, certified copies of the divorce decree can be used as proof that their name was legally changed when updating personal accounts and official records. To change their name after a divorce is final, individuals will need to open a new case by filing a Petition for Name Change with their district court.