Divorce (Youth & Young Adult Legal Issues Edition)


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

It can be easy to get married, but much harder to legally end your marriage when you need to. We can help you understand the details.
Resource Information


In Montana, the legal name for divorce is “Dissolution of Marriage.” The Petitioner is the party who first asks the court for a dissolution by filing a Petition for Dissolution with the Clerk of District Court. The Respondent is the other spouse. The respondent will have an opportunity to tell the court what they would like to address in the dissolution by filing an Answer to Petition for Dissolution. The answer must be submitted within 21 days after being served with the Petition for Dissolution.

If there are minor children from the marriage, the dissolution must include a parenting plan (also referred to as a custody agreement). More information about parenting plans can be found at MontanaLawHelp.org.

A dissolution will require answers to questions like:

  • What will happen to the real property, like land and homes?
  • Who will keep what personal property, like furniture, animals, and cars?
  • How will we divide financial assets, like savings and retirement accounts?
  • Who will be responsible for which debts?

Are there children involved?

  • Where will the children live and what contact will they have with each parent?
  • How will we provide child support and medical support for the children?

What if my spouse hurt me or the children?

There are a few important things to know if you are leaving a violent or abusive relationship. The end of a violent relationship is sometimes the most dangerous point for the victim and children. There may be free legal and non-legal help for people leaving a domestic violence relationship. It is a good idea to come up with a safety plan. You may also want to look into getting an Order of Protection. It is important to know that the Court may base some of its decisions on safety concerns for the parents and/or children. 

Important: You may need an advocate or attorney if there is or has been domestic violence in the relationship; Or, if a parent has physically, emotionally, or sexually abused children.

Final Decree of Dissolution:

To finalize the divorce, the judge must issue a Final Decree of Dissolution. A Final Decree legally ends the marriage and changes your status from married to single.

Take Action

Legal Help

  • Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients. Apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-666-6899 or applying online.
  • Tribal communities may have different rules for divorce/dissolution. If you are a tribal member living in a tribal community, contact MLSA to apply for free legal help on your specific situation at 1-800-666-6899 or by
     applying online.
  • Contact your nearest Self Help Law Center for free legal information and forms.

Legal Forms

Non-Legal Resources

  • The Youth Homelessness Development Project (YHDP) is designed to support Montana service providers in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. More information is avaliable at the YHDP website.
  • County resource guides provide an up-to-date list of avaliable help centers.

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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