A divorce is legal in nature. In Montana, the procedure operates like a traditional lawsuit, starting with the filing and service of a petition for divorce. You are required to respond to the petition, and the law specifies both the time you have to respond and the format that the response needs to take. Further, the court requires different forms depending on whether you have children and whether you and your spouse can reach agreement. Understanding how to properly and timely respond to a petition in Montana will help you avoid costly delays and ensure your continued participation throughout the divorce process.
In Montana, the format for response paperwork to a divorce action differs depending on whether the parties have minor children. The caption at the top of the response will indicate if minor children are involved, and it is important that you use the correct form. Additional documents, such as a proposed parenting plan, are required of parents, and a judge needs to be put on notice as to the issues to be decided in the divorce. By law, you have 20 days to respond to a divorce petition. The clock starts to run on the date the papers are personally served on you, or the date you acknowledge receipt by filling out and mailing back the acknowledgment form, included with the petition.
Montana requires that you respond to all of the claims made by your spouse in the petition. First you must include basic information about yourself and the marriage. The form then guides you step-by-step through each claim, asking whether you agree or disagree. If you disagree, you must provide a reason. Additional documents that Montana requires are a Sensitive Data form, and a Declaration of Disclosure of Assets, Debts, Income, and Expenses form. You should file these documents in the same court that your spouse filed the petition. You must also serve them on the other party. While service can be done personally, Montana allows the response to be effectively served by mail.
If you are in total agreement with your spouse and have resolved all of the issues related to the divorce, Montana allows the filing of a joint petition. This means that the single petition represents the position of both spouses. No service or response is required with a joint petition. While the document does not necessarily have to be completed together with your spouse, both must review it carefully and provide their signatures.
Once you have been served with the petition, you may choose not to respond. After 20 days have passed, the other spouse can move forward without your participation. This is known as a default divorce. Because a judge will only be presented with information from one spouse, that party may receive everything he requested in the petition. Not responding can be very dangerous, as a judge will not only issue a divorce decree but also decide matters of custody, support and property division without your input.