How to File for Divorce in Montana

How to file divorce in Montana

To avoid delays, extra costs, and frustrations while you prep for your case, you need to be familiar with how filing the process works in Montana. In this article, we’ll make sure that you have all of the resources necessary to file for divorce in Montana.

Here are several things that you absolutely need to know.

What Information Should I Gather and Prepare for Divorce in Montana?

important information

Gathering the information you’ll need to make your best case can take quite a while, so it’s best to start early and stay organized.

In some cases, it may be wise to gather information before you even make your spouse aware of your intentions.  That way, they can’t torpedo your efforts by hiding information once you make your intentions known.

Read: The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for  Divorce

Determining Which Divorce Process to Use

Which Divorce Procedure to Use

You can approach your divorce in several possible ways.

What method you decide is driven in large part by your levels of trust and cooperation with your spouse, and the types of issues you need to resolve.

Read: What Are the Types of Divorce?.

The Forms You Need to Complete

Forms to Prepare

You will need the following forms to start your divorce:

  • Petition for Dissolution
  • Proposed Parenting Plan (if applicable)
  • Petitioner’s Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure of Assets, Debts, Income, and Expenses
  • Summons and Temporary Restraining Order

You may also need the following documents if children are involved:

  • Notice of Filing Child Support Guidelines Financial Affidavit
  • Notice and Acknowledgement to Child Support Enforcement Division

To serve your spouse you will need to use one of the following three methods and corresponding documents:

  • Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt of Summons and Petition for Dissolution
  • Praecipe
  • Service by Publication, to include Affidavit for Publication of Summons, Order for Publication of Summons, and Summons for Publication.

Depending on your case, you will need some of the following final documents as well:

  • Request for Entry of Default, Application for Default Judgment, and Waiver of Final Disclosure Requirements
  • Entry of Default
  • Request for Hearing and Order
  • Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Decree of Dissolution
  • Final Parenting Plan
  • Notice of Entry of Final Decree
  • Vital Statistics Form

How Do I File My Forms?

File Your Forms for a Divorce

After you complete your forms, give the original to the Clerk of the District Court and keep a copy for yourself.  Generally, this will be in the county where you live.  You will also need to pay a filing fee unless you can have the fee waived.

If you think you’re eligible for a waiver, ask the court for an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Filing Fees.

After you submit your documents, the Clerk will time stamp the documents and put a “cause” number on your documents.  This cause number is how you will track your case going forward.

How Do I Serve Forms on My Spouse?

After your forms have been filed with the court, you must notify your spouse of your intention to divorce them.  If your spouse agrees, you can mail your paperwork to your spouse.  They will have 21 days to return an acknowledgment back to you.

If they don’t reply during the timeframe, you will need to have a sheriff’s deputy serve the paperwork for you.  There may be a small fee associated with this.

You can also complete service by publication.  This involves running a legal notice in a local newspaper for three weeks.  At the end of the three weeks, the newspaper will send you a proof of publication that you will submit to the court.

Once I’ve Filed, What are the Steps for Getting a Divorce in Montana?

As you file paperwork with the court, you must officially notify your spouse by serving divorce paperwork on them.

To do this, if your spouse agrees to work with you on the dissolution, you’ll mail your paperwork to him or her.  The spouse will need to sign and return the Notice of Acknowledgement which proves your spouse was served.

If you don’t get the Notice back in 20 days, you’ll need to complete proof of service by having the sheriff serve papers for you or completing service by publication.  After your notice runs in a local newspaper for three weeks, they will send you a Proof of Publication that you will file with the court.

You must also file your original summons with the court, and if you completed proof of service by other means, you’ll need to submit that as well.

You will need to wait 21 days from the date your spouse was served.  If they don’t respond to the court, you can request a default judgment.  This means the court can approve your divorce without input from your spouse.

If your spouse files a response, you will need to attempt to resolve any issues between you.  This may involve mediation or other forms of negotiation to reach an agreement.  When you can’t agree, you may need to move forward with litigation, up to and including a trial.

If you reach an agreement, you will need to attend a court date at which time the judge will ask you questions about your marriage and divorce.  The judge will confirm details of the parenting plan if children are involved, if the division of assets is fair and equitable, and other issues that will affect the outcome of your divorce.

If you can’t reach an agreement, the judge will decide issues for you.  Once all issues have been ruled upon, the judge will issue a final decree and you will be divorced.

Keep in mind this is just a broad framework.  Every divorce is different, so the actual steps you take may not be the same as this set of actions.

Read: How to Prepare for a Divorce Hearing

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting a Divorce in Montana

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Montana?

How much does it cost

The fee is $170 to file a petition for dissolution of marriage.  The fee is $150 to file a petition for legal separation.  The fee is $120 $to file a petition for a contested amendment of a final parenting plan.

See our article How Much Does Divorce Cost? for a more broad view of how much a divorce can cost, especially for more complicated divorces.

Can divorce fees be waived?

You may be able to have fees waived by requesting a review by the court.  If you think you’re eligible for a waiver, ask the court for an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Filing Fees.

If the judge agrees with your request you won’t have to pay filing fees for your case.

Can I file for divorce online?

No.  You can complete initial paperwork online with the help of a service or a private attorney but when it’s time to file, you must do so in person at your county courthouse.

Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

Yes.  But this is only advisable in an uncontested divorce.  If you have unresolved issues in Montana, it’s best to retain the services of an attorney to protect your interests.

What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce in Montana?

You or your spouse must have lived in Montana for 90 days immediately preceding when you file for divorce.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Montana? What is the timeline?

How long does it take

Every divorce is different so the length of time it takes to get divorced is going to be different as well.

In general, the more you can agree to cooperate, the quicker (and less costly) your divorce will be.

In an uncontested divorce, your divorce may be done in a matter of weeks.  However, if one of you challenges the initial petition, you may be ordered into mediation to try and work out your issues.

If you still can’t work out your differences, you may have to litigate your case, meaning your divorce could several months, and maybe even a year or longer.

Can I file for divorce in Montana while I am pregnant?


If you’re pregnant and you want to file for a dissolution of marriage in Montana before your child is born, you should get assistance from an attorney.

If you’re pregnant and your spouse is the father, the court will want you to wait until your child is born so that paternity can be fully established for purposes of support and custody.

When you’re pregnant and your spouse is not the father, you will need to mention this when you file for divorce.  You will probably need to establish definitive paternity before the court will grant your dissolution.

If I’m in the military, how does that affect filing for divorce?


The grounds for divorce are the same in Montana.  You only need to cite irreconcilable differences to file for divorce.

You can file for divorce in Montana if either of you lives in the state or are stationed on active duty.

Child support is determined the same way as it is for civilian cases, using the Income Shares Model.  Due to relocations and deployments, child custody and visitation issues can be much more problematic in a military divorce.

Also, combined child support and spousal maintenance awards may not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances.

Under the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982, active-duty members are afforded certain protections.

For example, under SSCRA, a military spouse can request a delay in divorce proceedings so that his or her military duties are not impacted.  Legal action can be delayed when he or she is on active duty plus 60 days beyond the end of his or her enlistment.

In an uncontested divorce, the active duty spouse may not have to be served by signing and filing a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.

The USFSPA governs how military pensions are disbursed and whether or not a former military spouse has full medical and commissary privileges.  The former spouse must have been married at least 20 years; the military spouse had at least 20 years of creditable service, and those two overlapped by at least 20 years.

Also, the military member’s retirement will not be distributed to a spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

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