Tips for When Your Divorce or Parenting Plan Case is Over
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
In this article you will learn tips for after your divorce or Parenting Plan case is over, including:
- Keeping track of payments
- What to do if you changed your name
- Tax tips
- If you move
- If you want to change your Parenting Plan
After a Divorce
In Montana, the legal name for a divorce is a "Dissolution of Marriage." When the Court grants your Dissolution, it will issue a Final Decree of Dissolution. A Final Decree legally ends the marriage and changes your status from married to single. You will get a conformed copy of the Decree. A conformed copy is a copy that the Clerk of Court signs to say it is an exact copy of the original. Keep a copy of the Decree in a safe place.
You may also want to ask for a Certified Copy which may cost a small amount but will be useful when having to show the Decree to other government agencies.
Make sure to follow the orders in the Decree, including:
- Paying your part of the marital debts as soon as possible; and
- Making sure vehicle and other titles are signed over to the right person.
If You Get Support Payments Directly from Your Ex-Spouse
- Keep a written record of all payments; and
- Make copies of all checks, and keep them in a safe place.
If You Changed Your Name as Part of the Dissolution
- Keep a Certified Copy of the Decree as proof of the name change;
- Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) and complete the forms to get a new identification card;
- Update your driver's license with the Department of Motor Vehicles;
- Change your name on other important legal papers. For example, powers of attorney, living wills, trusts, and contracts; and
- Notify other people and institutions with whom you have contact. For example, friends and family, employers, schools, post office, banks, creditors, telephone and utility companies, insurance agencies, the Office of Public Assistance, etc.
Some Tax Issues to Keep in Mind
- Your marital status for tax filing is set as of the last day of the year. If you are still married on December 31 (and you file as of a calendar year, as most people do), you must file as married (either jointly or separately). If you are divorced as of December 31, you must file single (either as head of household or not).
- Contact a tax professional if you have more questions or think you may be eligible for other tax credits. You can also learn more by reading our article on Divorce and Taxes.
- If you are having problems with the IRS, you can apply for free legal help from Montana Legal Services Association.
Divorce with Children
A Parenting Plan is included in every divorce with minor children from the marriage. If your divorce included a Parenting Plan, you’ll want to keep reading for tips on handling parenting after a divorce.
After a Parenting Plan Case
The Parenting Plan Proceeding ends when the Court issues a Final Parenting Plan. The Final Parenting Plan will say where the children will live, what kind of contact the children will have with each parent, and how the parents will make decisions about the child. The Final Plan will also include a Medical and Child Support Order.
It is important that you follow the Final Parenting Plan. This includes following:
- The residential schedule for the children
- Guidelines for when, where, and how to exchange the children
- How parenting decisions will be made
- Child Support
- Medical Support
- Updating the Court about changes to your personal information.
If you have any questions about your Final Parenting Plan, talk to a lawyer.
Updating the Court with information
Parenting Plans require both parties to update the court with changes to the following information:
- Your Social Security number,
- Your residential and mailing addresses,
- Your telephone number,
- Your driver's license number,
- Your employer's name, address, and telephone number,
- If the children are covered by a health or medical insurance plan, the name of the plan, the policy identification number, and the names of the persons covered; and
- If the children are not covered, information about availability of coverage through the party's employer.
If you are concerned that updating the Court with this information will put you in danger, let the Court know. The Clerk of Court or Self Help Law Center may have a local form to notify the Court. Or, you may need to file a written Motion to ask the Court to keep certain information private.
If you move
Before you move, you must file a Notice of Intent to Move with the Clerk of District Court, and serve the other parent with the Notice. If your move will significantly affect the child’s contact with the other parent, you must file and serve the Notice of Intent to Move at least 30 days before you move. You must also include a Proposed Amended Parenting Plan.
You can find what the law says about a Notice of Intent to Move at M.C.A § 40-4-217.
On this website you can find more information and the forms for filing a Notice of Intent to Move.
Changing your Parenting Plan
Most Parenting Plans have a section that says the parents must go to mediation before asking the Court to change their Parenting Plan. The idea is to avoid having the parents go back to court each time there is a disagreement. Ideally, a Parenting Plan will be written so that there is little need to change it as the children grow up.
If you and the other parent agree on changes to the Parenting Plan, you may file a Motion to Amend Parenting Plan (Agreed). If you and the other parent cannot agree on changes, the steps for changing a Parenting Plan are complicated. You may ask the Court to change a Parenting Plan by filing a Motion to Amend Parenting Plan. Usually, you must file the Motion with the same Court that ordered your Final Parenting Plan.
In general, to change a Parenting Plan when the other parent does not agree you must show the Court:
- It has been six months since ordering the Final Parenting Plan; and,
- There has been a significant change in circumstances; and,
- A new plan is necessary to protect the child’s best interests.
You can find the law for changing your Parenting Plan at M.C.A § 40-4-219. You can also find the forms for asking the Court to change your Parenting Plan on this website. If you are thinking about changing your Parenting Plan, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer.
If a parent doesn’t follow the Parenting Plan
It is serious if one parent does not follow the court ordered Parenting Plan. Not following a Parenting Plan can cause stress to the parents and the child. A parent can ask the court to change custody if one parent is not following it. A parent can be held in contempt of court for violating a Parenting Plan. A parent could face criminal charges for not following a Parenting Plan. You must follow your part of the plan, even when the other parent is not following the Parenting Plan. Two wrongs do not make a right.
You have options and steps that you can take when the other parent is not following the Parenting Plan. Usually, you do not want to rush to court or call the police when the other parent is not following a Parenting Plan unless there is an emergency or immediate safety concern.
Learn more by reading our article 10 Steps for When the Other Parent Won’t Follow the Parenting Plan.
Tax issues to keep in mind
The IRS assumes that the parent who actually has the children most of the time should get the exemptions. The IRS may not rely on the schedule in the Parenting Plan. But, parents are allowed to trade tax exemptions back and forth, using IRS Form 8332.
If you are having problems with the IRS, you can apply for free legal help from Montana Legal Services Association.