When it comes to dividing marital property, Montana is an "equitable distribution" state. The law recognizes that property acquired during a marriage is a product of the contributions of both spouses, even if one spouse worked outside the home and the other was a homemaker. This results in a property division that is "fair," but not necessarily equal. It is important to note that the person who held title to the property during the marriage is not relevant to who it will be awarded to following the divorce.
A Montana court will consider several factors in determining how to fairly divide the marital property, including the length of the marriage, the needs of each party and their ability to acquire assets in the future, as well as the parties' age, health and occupations. However, the court will not consider whether one spouse was at fault for the collapse of the marriage, This blocks a spouse from presenting evidence of adultery, extreme cruelty or imprisonment in order to obtain a larger share of the marital assets. If a couple can work together, they may specify how property should be divided by drafting a settlement agreement. These agreements are considered binding contracts and are generally enforceable after review by the judge.
According to Montana courts, property that one spouse acquired before the marriage or obtained by specific gift or inheritance is not considered to be marital property subject to division. However, the law carves out an exception to this rule if the non-acquiring spouse contributed to the maintenance or increase in value of the property. In that case, the increase in value that can be linked to the efforts of the non-acquiring spouse would be considered marital property. For example, if one spouse received an automobile valued at $3,000 as a gift and the other spouse, through his efforts, restored the car to a value of $10,000, the $7,000 difference would be subject to division between both spouses.
Once a court enters an order dividing a couple's property, it is generally not subject to modification in Montana. However, the law does provide for a limited number of exceptions to this rule, such as when both parties consent or one spouse, either accidentally or fraudulently, failed to properly disclose certain assets which lead to an unfair distribution.