Montana Divorce and Family Law Experts
The Montana Family Law experts at Jones & Cook have been serving clients in Missoula and throughout Montana and North Dakota with compassionate and caring Family Law counsel for over 50 years. We believe that an informed client is a well-served client, and we are vigilant about maintaining communication with you throughout your Montana Family Law matter. We work with you to ensure you understand all your legal options and how Montana Family Law applies to your specific case, so we can advocate for your rights and serve your best interests, as well as any children involved in your Montana Family Law matter. Contact Our Firm in Missoula, Montana to discuss your legal needs in a Free Consultation with an experienced attorney, call (406) 543-3800 today.
At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, we understand what you are facing and how to guide you with experience and compassion. Legal counsel early in this process is essential. It is crucial that you prepare legally, financially and emotionally for life post-divorce.
We offer full service divorce and family law that includes Divorce, Legal Separation, low to high conflict custody and Parenting Disputes, establishment and modification of child support and Spousal Support,Family Law appeals, Prenuptial Agreements, enforcement of existing agreements, restraining orders and step parent adoptions. We can help with simple and complex cases, and all aspects of Family Law, from Consultation and planning through Mediation and settlement or trial.
At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, we understand that going through a Divorce, Marriage Dissolution, or other Family Law matter can be one of the most difficult times of your life. It is also a time when you may be most vulnerable. These decisions made now, will affect you for many years to come. It is the time for expert counsel.
Protecting What’s Important to Montana Families
Frequently Asked Questions
The Montana family law experts at Jones & Cook are here to answer your questions and represent you to the best of our ability. We realize that each client is unique and each case brings its own set of problems and issues.
You should consult with a family lawyer for any big changes in the family dynamic, including: civil unions and domestic partnerships; marriage; prenuptial agreements; divorce; separation; property settlements; alimony; child abuse; spousal abuse; child custody.
Family lawyers handle legal issues that involve your family members; including marriage, domestic disputes, divorce, property negotiations, and lawsuits.
Montana has a no-fault divorce law. To grant a divorce, the court must determine either that:
- The couple has lived separate and apart for more than 180 consecutive days before the petition for divorce is filed, or
- There is serious marital discord between the spouses and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
The legal term for divorce in Montana is “dissolution of marriage.” While divorce ends the marriage, however, the couple may have ongoing legal arrangements regarding custody, child support, and maintenance.
If a couple is legally separated, they live separately but remain legally married. The spouses’ rights and duties to each other are determined in a decree of legal separation. The legal procedures are almost identical to those for divorce. Once legally separated for six months, either party may ask the court to convert the legal separation to a dissolution of the marriage.
A lawyer will assist you in identifying the issues in your case. A lawyer will also help you negotiate a fair settlement to avoid a trial. The lawyer will give you up-to-date advice regarding the laws on custody, spousal and child support, and property division. The lawyer will counsel you regarding the reasonableness of proposed settlement terms and what you might expect if the judge decides the case. If a settlement is reached before trial, one of the spouses must still appear in court and present brief testimony to finalize the divorce, which you lawyer can do. If settlement is not reached, the lawyer will prepare your case for trial and represent you in the courtroom. A lawyer will properly prepare all paperwork in connection with your divorce.
You only can get a dissolution if you have resided in Montana for at least 90 days prior to getting your dissolution. If there are children of the marriage who are under 18 years old, the children must have resided in Montana for at least six months before you can file for a dissolution in the state. There are a few exceptions, but, generally, Montana courts do not have jurisdiction to make judgments regarding the children unless they have resided in the state for at least six months.
In Montana, the ground for dissolution is “an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage”. When you ask the court for a dissolution, you must state in the Petition that there is an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage. In order to show that there is an irretrievable breakdown, you must tell the court that either (1) you have lived separate and apart for 180 days prior to filing for the dissolution, or (2) that there is serious marital discord which adversely affects the attitude of one of the parties.
The time that it takes to obtain a decree of dissolution of marriage depends upon the nature of the case. In the case of a summary divorce, or one that is uncontested, a decree may be obtained not less than twenty-days after the petition for dissolution is served. A summary dissolution of marriage can be obtained within 6-8 weeks.
Yes. The court charges fees to file the petition. The court also charges a fee when the dissolution decree is issued. There may also be costs to serve the petition on your spouse. If you cannot afford to pay the fees and costs, you can ask the judge for a fee waiver.
A Separation Agreement is a document that sets out the terms the couple has agreed to prior to a divorce. It is considered to be a binding contract. Once it is approved by a judge, it can only be modified under certain circumstances. It contains provisions for division of property and debts, maintenance, child support, and parenting.
In Montana, spousal support is called maintenance. A court may award maintenance only if the spouse seeking maintenance:
- lacks enough property to provide for his or her own reasonable needs, and
- is unable to be self-supporting through employment or has custody of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate for the spouse not to be required to work outside the home.
If a court decides to award maintenance, it may set a duration and amount for the award that it considers just, in light of all the circumstances, including:
- the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including any marital property distributed to that spouse,
- the spouse’s ability to meet his or her own needs independently, and any provision for the spouse in a child support agreement
- how long it will take the spouse seeking maintenance to get the necessary training and education to find appropriate employment
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the length of the marriage
- the age and physical and emotional health of the spouse seeking maintenance, and
- the ability of the spouse paying maintenance to meet his or her own needs while also paying maintenance for the other spouse.
Montana law recognizes that spouses who work as homemakers and spouses who work outside the home both contribute to the property acquired during the marriage. Property is to be divided equitably between the parties upon divorce. An equitable distribution is not always a 50/50 distribution. Several factors, including the length of the marriage, skills and relative abilities of the parties, age and health of the spouses, needs and opportunities to acquire future assets, and other criteria are considered. The court can apportion all property owned by either or both spouses, regardless of how title is held and when or how it was acquired. The court will not consider marital misconduct in dividing property. If the parties divide their property by agreement, the judge will review the agreement.
If the parties cannot divide their debts by agreement, the court will. However, the parties’ agreement or the court’s decree allocating joint debts is not binding on a creditor, unless the creditor agrees. If a spouse fails to pay, a creditor may sue the other spouse. The spouse who pays the creditor must seek reimbursement from the spouse who was supposed to pay the joint debt.
Divorcing parents must file a parenting plan with the court. If parents cannot decide how to resolve a specific issue, the court will make a determination based on the child’s “best interests.”
Montana has guidelines to determine child support based upon the total income of both parents. Daycare, insurance, and medical costs are included in the computation. The guidelines allocate the amounts to be paid by each parent, taking into account financial resources of the parents and children, the children’s needs, and the standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the parents stayed married.
If your move will significantly affect the child’s contact with his or her other parent, you must give the other parent thirty days written notice of your intended residential change. The notice must include a revised residential schedule for the child.
Mediation is a voluntary process divorcing spouses can use to find common ground to resolve their differences. A neutral third party works with the spouses to assist in the discussion. Lawyers may or may not be present. Mediation can occur at any time in the divorce process. Mediation has several advantages. It is less expensive than a trial, and it can occur at any time. Solutions are created by the spouses (rather than the judge), and therefore they have a higher chance of success. The court may require that parents participate in mediation to resolve disputes that arise under parenting plans.
Yes. If you’re going through a divorce and your attorney doesn’t specialize in spousal support cases. Divorce attorneys often do cover the entire divorce proceeding, ask your lawyer ahead of time so that you know what services are covered and aren’t covered.
An alimony attorney can represent you when you’re trying to negotiate your alimony amount or when you’re trying to change a prearranged amount, as well as help you through a lawsuit if your partner refuses to pay the negotiated amount.
A custody lawyer will advocate for you in mediation and disputes involving your children, including: becoming the primary caregiver of after a separation or divorce; guide you through paperwork; represent you in court; negotiate child support.
Yes. If you recently went through a divorce or separation, a child custody attorney is necessary if your family lawyer has no child custody experience.