Divorce Law: Grounds for Divorce in Montana

Divorce Law: Grounds for Divorce in Montana

Grounds for Divorce in Montana Description
No-Fault The marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
Adultery One spouse has committed adultery during the marriage.
Abandonment One spouse has abandoned the other for a period of at least 6 months.
Physical cruelty One spouse has subjected the other to physical or mental cruelty of such a nature as to render the other spouse’s life intolerable.
Drug or alcohol abuse One spouse has become habitually drunk or addicted to drugs after the marriage.
Insanity One spouse has been confined in a mental institution for at least 2 years and it is unlikely that the spouse will recover.

Overview of Divorce Law in Montana

The grounds for divorce in Montana include:

  • Irreconcilable differences – this is considered a no-fault ground where both parties agree that they can’t work out their differences
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Adultery
  • Willful desertion – when one spouse leaves without cause or reason and doesn’t return within a year’s time
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug addiction – when it affects the marital relationship
  • Incarceration – if one spouse is sentenced to prison for more than a year, this could be grounds for divorce

Introduction to Divorce Law in Montana

Residency requirements:

  • At least one spouse must have been a resident of Montana for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce.

Filing for Divorce:

  • A petition for dissolution of marriage needs to be filed with the district court in the county where either spouse resides.
  • The petitioner (the spouse who files) needs to serve notice on the other party (respondent).
  • If both parties agree on all issues, they can file a joint petition and avoid a trial.

Distribution of Property:

  • Montana follows community property laws which means that all marital property is divided equally between spouses upon divorce unless there is a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise.

Importance of Understanding Grounds for Divorce

No-Fault Divorce:

  • In Montana, irreconcilable differences is a no-fault ground where neither spouse needs to prove that one person was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.
  • This means that either spouse can request a divorce without having to blame their partner or provide evidence of wrongdoing.

Fault-Based Divorce:

  • If one party files on fault-based grounds, such as adultery or cruelty, they must be prepared to provide evidence and proof during trial.
  • The judge will consider this evidence when deciding issues like alimony and distribution of marital assets.

No-Fault Divorce in Montana

Advantages of No-Fault Divorce:

  • Saves time and money – since neither spouse has to prove wrongdoing, it can make the process faster and less expensive than fault-based divorces.
  • Lowers conflict – when one party doesn’t have to blame the other, it can reduce feelings of anger or resentment during the process.
  • Promotes cooperation – both parties may be more willing to work together and reach agreements on issues like custody or property division without feeling defensive or attacked by their partner.

Explanation of No-Fault Divorce

Advantages of No-Fault Divorce:

  • No-fault divorces tend to be less contentious and quicker than fault-based divorces because there’s no need to provide evidence or blame one another.
  • This type of divorce may reduce tension between parties and make it easier for them to co-parent after the divorce.

Navigating a No-Fault Divorce:

  • To file for a no-fault divorce in Montana, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Montana for at least 90 days prior to filing.
  • You’ll also need to complete and submit all necessary paperwork with the court clerk. Once this has been done, you’ll receive an official court date when your case will be heard by a judge.

Eligibility for No-Fault Divorce in Montana

Eligibility for No-Fault Divorce in Montana:

  • The only ground for a no-fault divorce in Montana is irreconcilable differences.
  • To be eligible to file for a no-fault divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of Montana for at least 90 days.

No-Fault Divorce Benefits:

  • No-fault divorces tend to be less stressful and costly than fault-based divorces because they do not require either spouse to prove wrongdoing.
  • A no-fault divorce can allow both parties to move forward with their lives more quickly since there is usually less conflict involved.

Process of No-Fault Divorce in Montana

Mandatory Waiting Period:

  • After filing for divorce in Montana, there is a mandatory waiting period of 20 days before any action can be taken by the court.
  • This period allows both parties time to come to an agreement about important issues or hire lawyers if necessary.

Counseling Requirement:

  • In some cases where children are involved, Montana law requires parents to participate in counseling sessions before finalizing their divorce proceedings.

Fault-Based Divorce in Montana

Fault and Division of Marital Property:

  • In a fault-based divorce, the judge may take into consideration the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage when deciding how to divide property between spouses.

Explanation of Fault-Based Divorce

Fault-Based Divorce:

  • In Montana, fault-based grounds for divorce include adultery, cruel and abusive treatment, willful desertion, habitual drunkenness or drug addiction, and incarceration.
  • If one spouse files on these grounds, they must be prepared to provide evidence and proof during trial.
  • The judge will consider this evidence when deciding issues like alimony and distribution of marital assets.


  • In Montana, adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person with someone other than their spouse.
  • To prove adultery in court it must be demonstrated that the accused had the opportunity to commit adultery as well as inclination towards such behavior.

Grounds for Fault-Based Divorce in Montana

If you are considering filing for a fault-based divorce in Montana, it is important to understand that proving fault can be difficult and expensive. It requires gathering evidence and testimony from witnesses which may prolong your case. Additionally, even if fault is proven, it does not guarantee that you will receive a better outcome when it comes to property division or spousal support.

Filing on no-fault grounds may be a quicker and less expensive option as long as both parties agree on all issues related to the divorce such as child custody and asset distribution. Understanding your options under Montana’s divorce laws can help you make an informed decision about how best to proceed with ending your marriage.


The Impact of Adultery on Divorce:

  • In Montana, if one spouse can prove that the other committed adultery, it may affect how property and assets are divided during the divorce settlement.
  • If a judge determines that marital misconduct led to the breakdown of the marriage or caused economic harm to one party or children of the marriage, they may award more alimony or child support than would otherwise be awarded in a no-fault divorce.

Abuse or Cruelty

Abuse or Cruelty:

  • If a spouse files for divorce based on cruelty or abuse, they must provide evidence of the abusive behavior to the court.
  • This could include police reports, medical records, photographs, and witness statements.
  • In Montana, a judge may consider past incidents of abuse when making decisions about spousal support and child custody.

Domestic Violence Protective Orders:

  • If you are experiencing domestic violence or fear for your safety during the divorce process in Montana, you can request a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO).



  • In Montana, willful desertion is a ground for divorce. This means that one spouse has left the other without cause or reason and hasn’t returned within one year.
  • If your spouse has abandoned you, it’s important to understand your rights in this situation.
  • If you are the deserted spouse, you may be entitled to alimony and child support payments from your ex-partner.



  • In Montana, if one spouse is sentenced to prison for more than a year, this could be grounds for divorce.
  • The incarcerated spouse must have been convicted of a crime and served at least one year before the other spouse can file for divorce on these grounds.
  • If the non-incarcerated spouse files on this ground, he or she will need to provide evidence of the conviction and incarceration during trial.

Mental Illness

Mental Illness:

  • Montana recognizes mental illness as a possible ground for divorce.
  • If one spouse is mentally ill, the other spouse can file for divorce on the grounds that the mentally ill spouse has been institutionalized for at least two years and is unlikely to recover.
  • The court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the interests of the mentally ill spouse during the proceedings.

Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse:

  • In Montana, habitual drunkenness or drug addiction is grounds for divorce when it affects the marital relationship.
  • If one spouse has a substance abuse problem, it can cause significant strain on the marriage and family life.
  • The court may order substance abuse evaluation and treatment before granting custody of children to an addicted parent.

Impact on Divorce:

  • If one spouse has a substance abuse problem, it can impact various aspects of divorce proceedings including property division and child custody arrangements.
  • A judge will consider how the addiction affects the ability of each spouse to provide for themselves and their children.

Process of Fault-Based Divorce in Montana

Trial Proceedings:

  • In a fault-based divorce trial, the judge will hear evidence from both parties before making a decision about the issues at hand like alimony or property distribution.
  • The petitioner (spouse who filed) has the burden of proving their allegations by providing convincing evidence.

Divorce Mediation in Montana

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

  • It can be less expensive than going to court because it involves fewer attorneys’ fees and court costs.
  • It’s typically faster than litigation because the parties can schedule mediation sessions at their convenience rather than waiting for a court date.
  • The process is confidential which means that anything discussed during mediation cannot be used in court later on if an agreement isn’t reached.

Explanation of Divorce Mediation

Advantages of Divorce Mediation:

  • The mediator helps keep communication between the parties open which can lead to more cooperation and understanding.
  • The process is confidential which means that discussions in mediation cannot be used against either spouse in court proceedings.
  • A mediated agreement can often be reached faster than through traditional litigation.

How to Begin Mediation:

  • In Montana, some counties require that divorcing couples attend mediation before going to trial. In others it may be voluntary but encouraged by the court.
  • You need to find an approved mediator who will guide you through the process. You may also want to consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in family law since they understand how this process works.

    Benefits of Divorce Mediation

    The Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

    • Saves Time: A divorce mediation process is often less time-consuming than going through a court proceeding. This is because the couple avoids waiting for court dates and can schedule mediation sessions at their convenience.
    • Saves Money: Since there are no extensive legal fees involved in hiring attorneys or going through multiple court proceedings, divorce mediation can be less expensive than litigation.
    • Better Outcomes: During mediation, couples have more control over the final outcome since they are responsible for creating the agreement together rather than relying on a judge’s ruling.

    Process of Divorce Mediation in Montana

    Mandatory Mediation:

    • In Montana, mandatory mediation for all contested cases involving children is required prior to trial unless waived by the court for good cause shown.
    • If there are no contested issues regarding custody or visitation, then mediation may not be necessary.
      However, if property division or spousal support is in dispute, then mediation may still be helpful.

    The Benefits of Mediation:

    • Mediation can save time and money compared to going through a full trial process.
      This can benefit both parties financially as well as emotionally.
    • In addition, mediation allows couples more control over the outcome of their case instead of leaving it up to the judge’s discretion.
      Couples often find that they are more satisfied with outcomes reached during mediation than those imposed by the court after trial.
      This can help improve post-divorce relationships especially when children are involved.

    Child Custody in Montana

    Custody Arrangements:

    • The court may order joint legal custody where both parents share in decision-making responsibilities.
    • The court can also award primary physical custody to one parent while granting visitation rights to the other party.

    Explanation of Child Custody in Montana


    • If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent may still be entitled to visitation rights unless it would not be in the best interests of the child due to concerns such as abuse or neglect.

    Types of Child Custody in Montana

    Physical Custody:

    • Physical custody refers to where the child lives on a day-to-day basis.
    • In Montana, physical custody can be joint (shared by both parents) or sole (awarded to one parent).

    Third-Party Custody:

    • A third-party may seek legal rights regarding a child if they have acted as a primary caretaker for that child and it is in the best interest of the child.
      This could include grandparents, stepparents or other family members who have played an important role in raising the child.

    Physical Custody

    Physical Custody:

    • In Montana, physical custody refers to where the child lives and spends the majority of their time.
    • The court may award sole or joint physical custody based on what is in the best interest of the child.
    • When determining physical custody, courts consider several factors such as each parent’s ability to care for the child, work schedules, living arrangements and any history of domestic violence.

    Legal Custody

    Sole Legal Custody:

    • If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, they have the exclusive authority to make all major decisions regarding their child’s life without input or agreement from the other parent.
    • The non-custodial parent may still be entitled to visitation rights with the child unless there are concerns for the child’s safety or well-being.

    Joint Legal Custody:

    • If both parents are awarded joint legal custody, they share decision-making responsibilities equally.

    Joint Custody

    Parenting Plans:

    • In cases where joint custody is granted, parents are required to create a parenting plan outlining how they will share time with their children.
    • This plan includes details about holidays, vacations, school schedules and transportation arrangements.
    • If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan themselves, then the court will step in to make those decisions for them based on what’s in the best interest of the child.

    Factors Considered in Child Custody Cases in Montana

    Types of Custody:

    • In Montana, custody is referred to as “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibility.”

    Sole Parental Responsibility vs. Shared Parental Responsibility:

    • Sole parental responsibility means one parent has primary decision-making authority over a child while shared parental responsibility allows both parents to share this authority.

    Child Support in Montana

    Child Support:

    • In Montana, both parents are obligated to support their children financially after a divorce.
    • The amount of child support is determined by the court based on each parent’s income and other factors such as the number of children and their needs.
    • Montana has guidelines that set forth how much child support must be paid based on the parents’ combined income.

    Enforcing Child Support:

    • If a parent fails to pay court-ordered child support in Montana, there are several enforcement measures available including wage garnishment, seizing assets or property, and suspension of driver’s license or professional licenses.

    Explanation of Child Support in Montana

    Enforcing Child Support:

    • If a non-custodial parent fails to pay court-ordered child support in Montana, there are various enforcement options available.

    Calculation of Child Support in Montana

    Calculating Child Support:

    • In Montana, child support is determined by a formula based on both parents’ income and the number of children being supported.
    • The court considers each parent’s gross monthly income, which includes wages, salary, commissions, bonuses and other sources of income.
    • After determining each parent’s gross monthly incomes and making certain deductions for things like taxes and mandatory retirement contributions or union dues, the court then multiplies that amount by a percentage based on the number of children involved.

    Modification of Child Support in Montana

    Filing for Child Support Modification:

    • To begin the process of modifying a child support order, you need to fill out and file certain forms with your local district court.
    • You may also need to provide documentation like pay stubs, tax returns or medical bills depending on your specific case.

    Property Division in Montana

    Equitable Distribution:

    • If both parties cannot agree on how to divide their assets or if they have unique circumstances (such as one spouse owning a business), the court will determine a fair distribution of the couple’s property.
    • The court considers many factors when deciding on an equitable division of marital assets including length of marriage, each spouse’s age and health condition, each party’s earning capacity and contribution to household income.

    Explanation of Property Division in Montana

    Equitable Distribution:

    • If there are unique circumstances making an equal distribution unfair, a judge may consider equitable distribution instead.
    • This would involve dividing assets in a way that seems fair given factors such as each spouse’s contribution to the marriage and their future earning potential.

    Prenuptial Agreements:

    • Couples can avoid community property laws by signing prenuptial agreements before getting married.
    • A prenup outlines how marital property will be divided in case of divorce or death, including whether certain assets will remain separate rather than being considered community property.

    Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

    Equitable Distribution:

    • In contrast, some states follow equitable distribution laws where assets are divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
    • The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity and contribution to the household when dividing marital assets.

    Prenuptial Agreements:

    • Couples can protect their separate property interests through prenuptial agreements that specify how certain assets will be distributed if they later divorce.
    • A prenuptial agreement can also outline other matters related to spousal support and alimony payments.

    Factors Considered in Property Division in Montana

    Fair and Equitable:

    • In some cases, an equal division of assets may not be fair or equitable.
    • The judge will consider several factors when dividing marital property including:
      1. The length of the marriage
      2. The age and health of each spouse
      3. The financial resources of each party
      4. The earning capacity of each party

    Custody and Child Support Considerations:

    • If children are involved, the court will also consider custody arrangements and child support payments when making decisions about property division.
    Spousal Support in Montana

    Factors Considered by Judges:

    • Judges in Montana consider various factors when deciding whether to award spousal support including:
      1. The duration of the marriage
      2. Each spouse’s age and health status
      3. The employability and earning capacity of each spouse
      4. The standard of living established during the marriage
      5. The needs and obligations of each party

    Type of Spousal Support:

      In Montana, there are two types of spousal support that can be awarded:

      1. Temporary Spousal Support: This is awarded while divorce proceedings are ongoing. It is intended to provide for basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing until a final divorce decree is issued.

        }Permanent Spousal Support: This is typically awarded after a final divorce decree has been issued. It could be paid over an extended period or indefinitely.

        Explanation of Spousal Support in Montana

        Spousal Support in Montana:

        • In Montana, spousal support is also known as maintenance and it can be awarded to either spouse.
        • The court will consider factors such as the length of marriage, standard of living during marriage, age and health of both parties, financial resources of each party, earning capacity and the contribution of a spouse as homemaker when deciding whether or not to award spousal support.
        • The amount and duration of maintenance will vary depending on these factors.

        Types of Spousal Support in Montana

        In Montana, spousal support (also known as alimony) can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis depending on several factors such as:

        • The length of the marriage;
        • The standard of living established during marriage;
        • The age and health condition of each spouse;
          < li > The earning capacity and income potential for each spouse;
          < li > Any contribution that either spouse made towards homemaking or raising children;

        Temporary Spousal Support

        Factors Considered by the Court in Determining Temporary Spousal Support:

        • The length of the marriage
        • The standard of living during the marriage
        • The age and health of both spouses
        • The earning capacity and income potential for both spouses

        Tax Implications:

        • If you receive alimony payments from your ex-spouse, it is considered taxable income.

        Rehabilitative Spousal Support

        Rehabilitative Spousal Support:

        • In Montana, spousal support (also known as alimony) can be awarded to a spouse who needs financial assistance after divorce.
        • One type of spousal support is rehabilitative spousal support, which is meant to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient through education or training.
        • The amount and duration of rehabilitative spousal support will depend on factors such as the length of the marriage, each party’s income and earning potential, and any health issues or disabilities that may affect employment prospects.

        Permanent Spousal Support

        Termination of Permanent Spousal Support:

        • If circumstances change significantly for either party, they can request that spousal support be modified or terminated altogether.

        Factors Considered in Spousal Support in Montana

        In Montana, spousal support is also known as maintenance. The court may award temporary or permanent maintenance depending on the circumstances of the case.

        If one party needs time to gain employment skills or education to become self-supporting, they may be awarded rehabilitative maintenance. This type of maintenance is designed to help a person become self-sufficient over a period of time.


        Talk to an Attorney:

        • If you are considering divorce or have questions about the process in Montana, it’s always recommended that you talk to an experienced family law attorney.
        • An attorney can provide guidance on your rights and obligations under Montana divorce law.

        Consider Mediation:

        • In some cases, mediation may be a useful tool for resolving issues related to custody, support, and division of assets without going through an adversarial court proceeding.
        • A mediator can help parties work together towards a mutually agreeable resolution while avoiding the expense and stress of litigation.


        Summary of Grounds for Divorce in Montana

        No-Fault Divorce:

        • The most common ground for divorce in Montana is irreconcilable differences, which does not require one spouse to prove that the other was at fault.

        Fault-Based Divorce:

        • If a spouse files on fault-based grounds, they must be prepared to provide evidence and proof during trial.
          This can affect issues like alimony and distribution of marital assets.

        Importance of Hiring an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Montana.

        Knowledge of State Laws:

        • Montana has specific laws regarding divorce, alimony, child custody, and property distribution.
        • An experienced attorney will have a deep understanding of these laws and how they apply to your particular case.

        Negotiation Skills:

        • A skilled divorce lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive a fair settlement or agreement.
        • Your attorney will work with you to determine what is most important to you and advocate for those interests during negotiations.

        FAQ on ‘Divorce Law: Grounds for Divorce in Montana’

        Can I get a divorce in Montana if my spouse cheated on me?

        Yes, adultery is a recognized fault-based ground for divorce in Montana.

        Do I need to prove fault to get a divorce in Montana?

        No. In addition to fault-based grounds, Montana also recognizes no-fault grounds for divorce based on irreconcilable differences or the marriage being irretrievably broken. You do not need to prove fault in these cases.

        If I file for divorce based on fault, how will that impact the division of property?

        In general, fault-based divorces do not impact property division in Montana. However, if one spouse’s actions (such as excessive gambling or spending) have significantly depleted marital assets, the court may take that into account when dividing property.

        If my spouse and I have been living separately but haven’t filed for divorce yet, can I still seek spousal support?

        No-fault divorces in Montana require spouses to live separately for at least 180 days before filing. During that time period, either spouse can seek temporary spousal support from the other. If you are not seeking a divorce but are living apart from your spouse and want spousal support, you will need to file a separate legal action for support.