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Montana Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
The document that starts the divorce is called a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, which requests the divorce. All divorces are titled “In Re the Marriage of (first spouse) and (the second spouse).” The divorce papers include the petition, a summons, a financial disclosure, and an acknowledgement. Couples with children must also file a Notice of Filing Child Support Guidelines Financial Affidavit, a Notice and Acknowledgment to Child Support Enforcement Division, a Child Support Worksheet and a Proposed/Final Parenting Plan.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
The divorce petition is filed in the district court that covers the petitioner’s county. There are 22 judicial districts in Montana, with each district covering one or more counties.
Any form that requires notarization of the signature must be signed in the presence of a notary or justice of the peace, so that the signature can be properly witnessed.
The court charges a fee to file the petition. This fee can be waived in some instances when a party cannot afford to pay it.
Serving the Documents
Delivering the divorce papers to the respondent makes certain he or she has proper notice of the action. This is called service of process. In Montana, the petitioner uses one of a number of methods, including asking the respondent spouse to accept a copy of the petition by mail.
If the respondent agrees to accept service, the petitioner can mail the divorce paperwork to the respondent. The respondent signs and returns a Notice and Acknowledgement, which is proof of service and filed with the court.
Disclosing Financial Information
The Final Declaration of Disclosure of Assets, Debts, Income and Expenses profiles the finances of the spouses, individually and jointly. In Joint Petitions for Dissolution, both spouses are required to state that they have exchanged this information.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
If the divorce is contested, the respondent can file a response or answer to the petition when he or she does not agree with what the petitioner spouse is requesting from the court, or disagrees with the petitioner's grounds for divorce. Filing an answer requires payment of a fee, which can be waived if the respondent cannot afford to pay.
Finalizing the Divorce
A divorce may be finalized twenty days after the other spouse is served with the divorce papers, but it usually takes much longer. Contested actions always take longer.
Montana law calls for equitable division of property. While equitable implies fair, it does not necessarily mean equal. The court, however, encourages spouses to come to an agreement on their own regarding marital property. If the court must intervene, it will take several factors into account. Considerations include, but are not limited to, whether or not one spouse will receive alimony payments, the earning capacity of both spouses, length of the marriage, contribution of the homemaker if applicable, custody arrangements, and debts and age.
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