When two people decide that continuing a marriage is no longer possible, they can avoid complications by choosing a no-fault divorce. In Montana, a divorce, known as dissolution of marriage, does not require a showing that one party was at fault. While this removes some of the finger-pointing from the process, there are residency and evidence requirements for proving to the court that the marriage is broken.
Montana is a no-fault divorce state, which means that parties need not prove that one spouse was the cause of the collapse of the marriage. However, the party initiating the action needs to prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This can be demonstrated by evidence showing that the parties have lived separate and apart for more than 180 days or that there is "serious marital discord that adversely affects the attitude of one or both of the parties towards the marriage." Although it usually takes longer, a divorce can be ordered as soon as 20 days after the petition is served.
To obtain a divorce in Montana, the parties must show that they meet the residency requirements; at least one spouse must have been domiciled in the state at the time the petition for dissolution was filed. To commence the divorce process, a petition for dissolution needs to be filed with the Clerk of District Court in the county of residence. The petition must include both spouses' ages, occupations and residence information, the date of the marriage and place of marriage registration. They are also required to provide facts indicating that either they have been separated for 180 days or that serious marital discord exists. If the spouses do not dispute the claims made in the petition, they can file jointly.
Additional forms may be required in some cases. Couples with children must file a parenting plan. The Montana court urges couples to attend mediation and it can be ordered in some cases. Once all of the documents have been completed, the non-filing spouse must be served with the paperwork. This can be accomplished by mail, through the local sheriff's office or by a process server, or if all other methods fail, by newspaper publication.
In many instances, a trial can be avoided. If no material issues between the parties remain in dispute, each spouse can sign a Marriage Settlement Agreement. This agreement constitutes a binding contract and, if approved by the judge, is enforceable on the issues of property and debt division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support. However, if disagreement persists, a hearing will be scheduled and a judge will make a ruling and issue a final divorce decree.