Divorce Lawyers in Missoula MT

Once the decision to proceed with divorce is made, it is vital that you develop a strategic plan for the future. Divorce can be one of the most painful life events you will endure. During the upheaval of divorce it can be difficult to know which way to turn. Contact our Montana divorce lawyers in Missoula, Montana to discuss your legal needs in a Free Consultation with an experienced attorney, call (406) 543-3800 today.

Divorce and Family Law issues are extremely stressful, emotional and overwhelming. It is imperative that you partner with a skilled family lawyer who brings compassion and experience to advocate on your behalf. At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, our Montana Divorce lawyers in Missoula, Montana are able to devote focused and personal attention to our clients you won’t find at a larger firm.

At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, our Montana Divorce lawyers understand what you are facing and how to guide you with experience and compassion. Legal counsel early in the Divorce or Legal Separation 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 time 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 family law cases can be complex leave you feeling emotionally drained. If you are involved in a custody case or dissolution of marriage proceeding, from time to time you may feel angry, helpless, scared, and frustrated over the whole court process. We will do our best to find you a resolution that is satisfactory.

Montana Dissolution and Divorce Law Experts

Dissolution of Marriage

In Montana divorce is legally referred to as dissolution. In order to file for a divorce or dissolution you must have been a resident of the state, or was stationed in the state while a member of the armed services, and that the domicile or military presence has been maintained for 90 days before filing for divorce.

Montana is a no-fault divorce state, meaning neither you nor your spouse needs to prove a reason for the divorce. You may simply state irreconcilable differences or an irreparable breakdown of the marriage when filing for divorce, as well as meet the following conditions of the court:

1. Prove you have lived separate and apart for more than 180 consecutive days before the petition for divorce is filed, or
2. Prove there is serious marital discord between you and your spouses with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Montana courts charge a fee to initially file a petition for divorce, this is followed by an information gathering stage in which you and your spouse are required to exchange disclosures of assets, debts, income and monthly expenses. This process is only made more complicated, time consuming and expensive when there are children involved, requiring a parenting plan which includes a residential schedule for your children, child support provisions, medical support, child tax credits, and general parenting provisions.

The process for dissolution of marriage in Montana can run smoothly or be a complete nightmare, depending on the state of emotions at play between you and your spouse. Divorce proceedings can drag out for months, a very expensive and time-consuming process requiring court filings, mediation, and in some cases a court hearing. Because of the complexity of the process and the benefit of timely reaching fair agreements, retaining a skilled lawyer is absolutely critical. To discuss your family law issues, or for a free consultation with Missoula divorce attorney Bradley J. Jones, call (406) 543-3800 .

Legal Separation

A legal separation can be used as precursor or alternative to filing for divorce. The main difference is that a legal separation does not end your marriage. Some spouses may prefer a legal separation when they need space and time to be certain they want to file for divorce.

Under the terms of a legal separation, you must live separately from your spouse for at least six months before you can be granted a divorce, at which point either of you may petition the court for the separation to be converted into a divorce.

A legal separation in Montana can be seem like the ideal option when you’re feeling unsure. The family law experts at Jones & Cook are available to help you file for a legal separation and answer any questions you have about divorce proceedings in Montana. Call (406) 543-3800  to reach our Missoula office for a Free Consultation with an experienced attorney.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional divorce process, where both parties seek to reach a mutually agreeable resolution by maintaining open communication, voluntarily sharing information, and engaging other professionals as needed.

In a collaborative divorce the threat of litigation is removed from the process, allowing you and your spouse to focus on an amicable resolution. This, along with the avoidance of high costs and court proceedings associated with a traditional divorce, makes collaborative divorce a very popular option for a Montana dissolution of marriage. If you are interested in learning more about collaborative divorce in Montana, please call Jones & Cook at (406) 543-3800, to set up a Free Consultation.

Mediation

Mediation is one of the more commonly used methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party and with their help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible, while focusing on what is best for the both of you and your children. Some of the benefits of using mediation for your divorce include:

Mediation is far less expensive than court hearings.
Mediations typically end in a complete settlement of issues.
Mediation is private and leaves no public record of what is discussed.
You and your spouse, rather than the court, are in control of your divorce process.
Mediation can help you and your spouse avoid future divorce-related conflicts.

Bradley J. Jones is an experienced family law attorney with mediation experience in divorce cases. Such distinctions put Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law above the average family law firm in Montana. Call (406) 543-3800 for your Free Consultation.

Alimony or Spousal Maintenance

In Montana, alimony or spousal maintenance is a court-ordered payment plan from one former spouse to the other after divorce. It is intended to provide financial support for the spouse who was financially-supported during the marriage. Either spouse is entitled to seek and receive alimony, the duration and amount is determined by the court. In Montana, alimony influences the distribution of property and it can become important in a divorce settlement, especially in situations where spouses are not able to reach an agreement.

Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis and there is no set formula used to calculate awards. To be eligible you must show that you are not able to provide for your reasonable needs without continued support from your spouse. Montana family court will determine your alimony award based on the following:

Your standard of living while married
The time required for education and training you need to find work
Each spouse’s earning capacity, occupation, and employability
Each spouse’s age and health
The length of your marriage
Each spouse’s financial resources

Unlike some states, Montana does not consider your spouse’s misconduct or fault when calculating alimony payments. Additionally there is no limit on the amount of alimony you can receive. The court will take into consideration all the information you provide and determine how much support is appropriate. Montana alimony can be paid in a lump sum or in payments over time.

If you plan to file a petition for alimony, it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer who understands Montana alimony law. The skilled team at Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law can help you start the alimony process before your divorce is even final; negotiate your alimony award in your dissolution settlement agreement; assist you and your spouse agree upon a fair alimony amount; and even help resolve your alimony issues without the involving the court.

Petitioning or modifying an alimony award can be contentious and complicated. Montana family lawyer, Bradley J. Jones can help you file a request with the court, calculate a fair alimony award, and negotiate with your spouse. Contact Jones & Cook in Missoula, MT to discuss your legal needs, (406) 543-3800 .

Property Division

Montana marital property and debt issues are typically settled between the parties by a signed Marital Settlement Agreement, in some cases property is awarded by court order within the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. Montana is an “equitable distribution” state, which means any property acquired during a marriage belongs to both spouses, even if one of you worked outside the home and the other did not.

Montana family court considers several factors in determining how your marital property should be divided; such as the length of your marriage, the needs of you and your spouse, your ability to acquire assets in the future, your age, health and occupation. What the court will not consider is why your marriage ended or who was at fault, ensuring your spouse cannot attempt to influence the court by disparaging your reputation.

Any property that was acquired before your marriage, gifted to you, or that you inherited before or during your marriage is not considered marital property and is not subject to division. That being said, the law does allow for an exception to this rule if your spouse can prove they contributed to the maintenance of that property or an increase in the property value.

At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, our Missoula, Montana divorce and family law attorneys provide knowledgeable guidance and quality services with regard to property settlements. Our lawyers utilize hard work, attention to detail and appropriate experts to achieve fair property settlements outside of court whenever possible. However, if your case needs to go to trial before a fair result can be reached, we will not hesitate to litigate aggressively on your behalf. Call (406) 543-3800  to schedule a Free Consultation.

Protective Orders

Under Montana law, protective orders are intended to keep victims of domestic violence safe. Court ordered and designed to protect you and your family members from violent and harassing behavior, requiring your abuser to stay a specified distance away from you for a certain amount of time.

Order of Protection – Domestic Violence

To be eligible for a protective order, you must have been the victim of domestic violence, which in Montana includes certain specific crimes. Most of these crimes are violent in nature, including most forms of assault, rape and incest, kidnapping and arson. Also included are crimes such as stalking, harassment and intimidation.

The petition must be filed in the Montana county where the petitioner lives. The only exception would be if you and the respondent have ongoing custody or divorce proceedings in another court, in which case it should be filed there. Once you fill out the paperwork you may be asked to appear immediately before a judge, who will set a court date. You may request a temporary restraining order to protect you until the full hearing, which will be held within 20 days of your application.

The respondent must be served with the temporary restraining order and notice of hearing prior to the hearing. If law enforcement or a professional process server cannot find the respondent, the hearing may be rescheduled. Montana restraining orders are valid for a maximum of one year. They may be renewed prior to expiration.

Order of Protection – False Claim

If your spouse has made a false claim and the court has issued an Order of Protection you need to meet with an experienced attorney immediately! Though very rare, unfortunately it does occur where an angry spouse will make this type of a false claim to cause you harm. Leaving your spouse full access to key marital documents and marital property while you are legally barred from entering your own home or having contact with your children. If this has happened to you, you must call a family law attorney as soon as possible. Please call (406) 543-3800 right away to schedule your Free Consultation, and let us help you through this awful experience.

Summons and Temporary Restraining Order – Petition for Dissolution

If you are in the midst of divorce proceedings in Montana and have been served with a Temporary Restraining Order, don’t panic. This is standard procedure, all divorces filed in Montana include an economic restraining order found in a document called a Summons and Temporary Restraining Order. Montana courts want to keep the parties from selling, hiding, and otherwise disposing of property, or basically liquidating the marital estate while the divorce is pending. The economic restraining order is intended to keep everything on a level playing field so the assets can be fairly distributed and divided at the conclusion of the dissolution.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

Family lawyers handle legal issues that involve your family members; including marriage, domestic disputes, divorce, property negotiations, and lawsuits.

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.

A civil litigation attorney takes you through the process of filing and pursuing a non-criminal lawsuit Some examples of civil litigation include alimony, personal injury, debt settlement and discrimination.

Yes. If you’re considering filing a lawsuit. Litigation lawyers know which cases will be successful, a familiar with all procedures, steps, and the necessary paperwork.

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.