Divorce is stressful for most people. But it doesn't have to turn into a bitter, expensive court battle—if you and your spouse can cooperate, negotiate, and ultimately agree on how you will handle the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage.
This article explains how you can get an uncontested divorce (or "dissolution") in Montana, including how to qualify for the state's streamlined procedure known as a "summary dissolution."
If you can't reach a complete agreement with your spouse, you'll need to go to trial and have a judge make a decision about any contested issues. That is certain to make your divorce take a lot longer and cost a lot more. (Learn more about how contested issues affect the cost of divorce.)
A summary dissolution (sometimes referred to as a "joint dissolution") is the simplest, quickest, and least-expensive way to get an uncontested divorce in Montana. In order to use this streamlined procedure, however, all of the following must be true:
(Mont. Code §§ 40-4-104, 40-4-130 (2021).)
Most couples are able to go through the summary dissolution process without having to hire a lawyer. However, it might be a good idea to have an attorney review your agreements to make sure that it protects your rights.
If you qualify for a summary dissolution in Montana, you and your spouse will complete a joint dissolution petition and related forms together.
The Montana Judicial Branch has an online divorce page with all of the necessary forms, along with instructions and information on other resources. There are separate packets of forms for a joint summary dissolution for spouse with and without minor children. The brochure, "Introduction to Family Law in Montana," will explain the decisions that you and your spouse need to make before you complete the forms.
Along with the joint petition, the forms include:
You also have the option of using an online divorce service, which will complete the required forms for you after you answer a series of questions about your situation.
To file your paperwork, take the completed and signed forms to the clerk of the district court office in the county where you or your spouse currently lives. (You can find the address and phone number of the court clerk on this Montana court locator.)
You will have to pay a filing fee ($200 as of 2021), unless you qualify for a fee waiver. (The waiver application form is available on the Montana courts site.) If you're requesting entry of your final decree without a hearing, you should also prepay the $45 fee for the dissolution judgment.
For a summary dissolution, Montana has a brief waiting period before your divorce can be finalized: 20 days from when you filed the joint petition. If you requested a hearing date, the final hearing will be scheduled at some point after that waiting period. Generally, both spouses must attend this hearing, but one spouse can waive the right to appear by filing a "consent to entry of decree" form. At the hearing, the judge will ask you some questions and review your paperwork. If you've met all of the conditions for a summary dissolution, the judge will sign the final divorce judgment. (Mont. Code § 40-4-133 (2021).)
If you and your spouse signed and filed the affidavit waiving a hearing, the judge will review your paperwork and, after deciding that you've met the requirements, will sign the final judgment without your presence. However, if there are any questions or problems, the judge may decide that a hearing is necessary.
If you and your spouse don't meet all of the requirements for a summary dissolution—for instance, if you own your home—you will need to follow Montana's standard divorce filing procedures. However, you can still avoid the extra expense and time for a trial by reaching a settlement on the issues in your divorce—on your own or with the help of lawyers and/or mediation.