Montana Divorce and Family Law
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Some of the darkest days of your life can involve the “D word” – Divorce.   When you took your wedding vows and decided to walk down the aisle, you never imagined the road would lead you to divorce court where a judge would divide up your belongings and time with your children.  You probably pictured a future together with a white picket fence.

When faced with divorce,  uncertainty can leave you awake at nights wondering how you will survive it all.  Can I support myself?  Can I afford to keep the house?  Will I have to move?   Will I have to give up some of my retirement?  Who will pay all the debt?   Can I afford to live while paying child support?  Will the kids be okay?  When will this nightmare end? 

If you are considering a divorce, you are looking at a fork in the road where you need to ask yourself, “What path should I take?”  As you approach that fork, you need experienced and understanding legal counsel to walk with you along that new and unusual path called divorce.  Since 2000, Rossberg Law Office, L.L.C. has helped hundreds of people like you navigate through a divorce so you can begin a new life. 

When you are considering a divorce, you are not only severing emotional and familial ties, you are also dividing up the marital estate.  When you divide the marital estate, you often find yourself splitting up debts, assets, and often, time with your children. 

The decisions that you make today about your divorce will impact your future and the future of your family for years to come.  That is why you need an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney at your side.   An experienced divorce attorney should help alleviate your frustration, and allow you to make the best decisions that you can under the circumstances. 

What can I do to prepare for my divorce?  

You need to have a good understanding of your assets and liabilities because your attorney will probably require you to complete a financial disclosure statement.  Such a statement requires you to list information about your debts and assets.  It would be helpful for you to create a worksheet which: 

  • lists the marital assets and places a value on each
  • describes the marital debts and amounts of each debt
  • If you are having difficulty listing all of your debts, you might consider obtaining your credit bureau report.  A few sources for this information include Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. 
  • Also, try creating a monthly budget that takes into account your earnings and expenses.  Such information will prove helpful. 
  • When you meet with your attorney for the first time, it would be helpful to bring this information.  Also, you should think about what your goals are with respect to your divorce, and be prepared to share those goals with your attorney.  For example, what property do you want out of the divorce?  What debts are you willing to pay?  What debts do you want your spouse to pay?  A good attorney will be equipped to advise you if your expectations are reasonable under the circumstances.   

What documents should I collect?

The type of documents needed will vary from case to case.  However, in most cases, the following documents will assist your attorney: 

  • state and federal income tax returns
  • W-2 forms and payroll stubs
  • 1099's and records involving other income
  • records related to monthly living expenses
  • deeds to real estate
  • motor vehicle titles
  • mortgages or deeds of trust for any real estate
  • lease and/or rental agreements
  • checking and savings account statements
  • certificates of deposit
  • stock certificates and bonds
  • pension and retirement plans
  • stock options and profit sharing plans
  • account statements on securities
  • loan documents
  • credit card statements
  • records of all debts
  • automobile policies
  • health insurance policies
  • auto insurance policies
  • homeowner’s insurance policies
  • appraisals of any real estate and property
  • documents showing gifts and inheritances

How is the marital estate divided? 

Montana is not a community property state, and hence, there is not an automatic division of the marital estate on a fifty-fifty basis.  Each marital estate is looked at on a case by case basis, and the court decides what is fair, equitable, and not unconscionable when dividing the property and debt.  This does not mean the court will not divide up the estate equally, but it must look at other factors.  Also, nothing prevents you and your spouse from reaching an agreement on the division of the assets and debts.  If you and your spouse reach an agreement that is fair, equitable, and not unconscionable, most courts will adopt it as an order of the court. 

Do I need to prove fault to get a divorce?

Montana is referred to as a “no fault” divorce state. This means that when you file for divorce and litigate your case, you are not required to prove fault on the part of the other party.  For example, you do not need to allege adultery, abuse, or abandonment.  The court will not consider such allegations as a basis for granting the divorce.  The court will simply consider whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken, and whether or not there is a reasonable prospect for reconciliation. 

What if I don’t want this divorce? 

The fact that you do not want this divorce will not prevent your spouse from successfully divorcing you since the court only needs to conclude that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences, and have no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.  That is a fairly easy standard to meet in Montana.

What if I’m having a tough time emotionally?  

It is not uncommon that one party may not want the divorce.  Sometimes the filing of a divorce by your spouse completely catches you by surprise!  You may have thought everything was fine, and did not expect to be served with a Petition for Dissolution.

If you are having a tough time coping with the thought of divorce, you may find it difficult to make important legal decisions that will affect your future.  Some people find themselves in denial and become depressed.  Frequently, people who are going though a divorce seek the assistance of an experienced counselor or therapist.  Often, these professionals can help you keep your emotions in check, and will save you in legal costs down the road. 

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce is exactly as it sounds – a “contest” between the husband and wife over some “prize” in the marital estate.  Both spouses are involved in a legal battle over some aspect of the divorce.  If both parties disagree over who should receive custody of the children, or how much child support is due and owing, you have a contested divorce.  If the parties disagree about how the marital property and debt need to be divided, you have a contested divorce.  Basically, if the parties are not in total agreement, they are involved in a contested divorce.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one in which one spouse does not contest any decisions made by the other spouse that relate to the division of property and debt, spousal maintenance, and/or the parenting of the children, including child support and custody.  Basically, the parties are in 100% agreement.

How long does a divorce take? 

That is a difficult question to answer. The duration of a divorce varies on a case by case basis.  If you have an uncontested divorce, your divorce can take as little as twenty (20) days or several months depending on a variety of factors. Contested divorces can take longer; some may take several months and other may last several years.

However, most divorces can be completed within six months to one year depending on a number of factors that sometimes include the complexity of the case, the level of cooperation or animosity between the parties, the attorneys involved, and the court’s availability.  

What happens to my children in a divorce?  

This information is covered in our section on: Child Custody/Visitation; Parenting Plans; and Child Support.  Please review those sections. 

Tags: Divorce, Montana Divorce, Divorce Lawyer, Divorce Attorney, Military Divorce, Farm and Rance Divorce