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Montana Family Law: An Overview

Perhaps you and your fiancé are taking precautions and want to know how to secure each other’s rights to property in the event of a divorce. Or maybe your spouse has been neglecting your stepchild and you want to get custody of the child after a divorce. These highly emotional family issues aren’t without legal requirements or procedure in Montana.

If you have a family law case in Billings, Great Falls, Missoula or elsewhere in Montana, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Montana Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.

If you need help navigating the complex laws governing your case, a Montana family law attorney can help and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.

Montana Adoption Laws

Adoption is a complex legal process of ending the birth parents’ rights and custody to their child and establishing parental rights in another individual or couple. The birth parents’ rights to their child may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily.

Voluntary termination is when the parent willfully surrenders their parental rights, often because they are unwilling or unable to raise their child. Involuntary termination occurs when either another party (i.e. a stepparent or grandparent) is attempting to adopt the child or when the birth parent is considered unfit to care for their child due to neglect or abuse.

Any adult or couple over 18 years of age may adopt after undergoing a pre-placement evaluation or a home study and training through a Montana Child and Family Services county office. Adoptions may only be done through and in collaboration with a licensed adoption agency or the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Montana No-Fault Divorce

While divorce is often a long and complicated process, Montana’s laws help to expedite the process by not requiring a specific reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This “no-fault” divorce provision only requires proof that either both parties have lived separately for 180 days or more or that one or both parties cannot sustain the relationship due to marital discord.

Both parties don’t need to agree to a particular reason why the marriage is broken. Only one party needs to petition for divorce. If the other party (the respondent) contests the divorce, the court may grant the divorce anyway if there’s sufficient proof of an irretrievable breakdown.

Outside of the no-fault divorce ground, at least one of the parties needs to have been a Montana resident for 90 days or longer prior to the divorce petition’s filing. If the court finds the possibility for reconciliation, it may order marriage counseling before making another determination and, ultimately, a decree.

Montana Marriage License

A Montana marriage license is required to solemnize a marriage in the state. The license verifies that both parties have freely and independently consented to the union and that they meet the state’s marriage requirements. These requirements include prohibited marriages between family members, a married person and an unmarried person and underage parties who haven’t received parental consent.

Marriage licenses must be obtained prior to the marriage ceremony. Montana residents may apply for the license and use it in any county within the state. Nonresidents must apply for the license in the county where they will hold the marriage ceremony. Unlike many states, Montana requires women to submit a medical certificate proving that they were blood tested for rubella immunity.

Once you receive your marriage license, you must perform the ceremony within 180 days before the license expires. There is no waiting period after you receive your license.

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