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Infertility and Counseling

By Guest-Writer Katie Regnier, MS, LCPC

I was grateful for the invitation to contribute to this blog, especially at this time of year.  It is the holiday season, a time for family gathering, parties and often child-centered celebration.  It is a time where we mark another year passing and take stock in our lives.  This is a very hard time for people experiencing loss, including infertility.

Chances are you know someone struggling with infertility.  One in eight couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy.[1]  Infertility can be overwhelming for individuals and couples.  The effects of infertility may permeate all areas of life, affecting emotional health, relationships, career and finances.  For many couples, this is this first major crisis for their marriage.  Individually, infertility may cause symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as sleep problems, feelings of loneliness, anger and grief.  Counseling may provide extra support needed to cope with the complex issues of infertility.

How can counseling help?  Through counseling, individuals and couples can:

  • Learn specific methods for coping with stress, anxiety and daily challenges of infertility
  • Receive support in making difficult decisions about fertility
  • Learn methods for resolving conflict and maintaining a strong relationship with your partner
  • Explore other family-building options and third party reproduction

Everyone has a unique path through infertility and resolution, yet many of the themes and feelings experienced are universal.  Seeking extra support, either through individual counseling or group counseling, can normalize the feelings that are common yet unspoken among many people in this journey.

Katie Regnier is a mental health counselor in Bozeman, Montana.  She can be contacted at (406) 580-6877 or regnierifc@gmail.com.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reproductive Health, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/ (accessed Nov. 17, 2017).

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Declaration of Marriage

If you are a Montana resident and plan on having a destination wedding, you may be wondering what options you have for your marriage to be valid.  One option is by filing a written declaration of marriage with your county’s clerk of district court.  See § 40–1–311, MCA.  The written declaration serves as an official record of the marriage and is submitted after the wedding takes place.   

Before filing the written declaration with the district court, the parties must secure the appropriate medical certificate or waiver.  For forms specific to Gallatin County, visit here. There is no particular formatting that needs to be followed, but the declaration of marriage does need to contain the following information:

  • The name, age, and residential address of each of the parties
  • The fact of the marriage
  • The name of father and maiden name of mother of both parties, as well as the addresses of each parent
  • A statement that both parties are legally competent to enter into the marriage contract 

Both parties need to appear before the clerk of district court to sign and file their declaration.  Further, the declaration needs to be attested by at least two witnesses and formally acknowledged.  There is a filing fee of $53.00 and must be paid to the clerk at time of filing in cash.  If you have any questions, contact your county’s clerk of district court for more information on how to file a declaration of marriage.

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Premarital, Gifted & Inherited Property

Many people believe that premarital, gifted and inherited property is not subject to division during a divorce.  However, Montana law is not that simple.  If parties cannot agree how to divide their property during their divorce, the court decides who keeps what.

In a divorce, the court must “equitably divide” all property belonging to either or both parties, however and whenever acquired, without regard to title and without regard to marital misconduct. In dividing premarital, gifted and inherited property, courts must also consider the contributions of the other spouse to the marriage.  This includes the nonmonetary contributions of a homemaker, the extent to which such contributions have helped maintain the property at issue, and whether or not the property division serves as an alternative to maintenance (alimony). The court’s division of property based upon the unique facts of each case.

In other words, the court has the ultimate authority to distribute all property of both spouses and is not required to subtract premarital, gifted and inherited property from the marital estate before dividing it.  Certainly, the party claiming ownership of the premarital, gifted or inherited property is entitled to argue that it would be equitable to award him or her the entirety of such property, but it is not guaranteed that the party will get to keep it.

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Be careful what you file!

All too often, self-represented individuals (and even some attorneys) file court documents using the full names of minor children, social security numbers, dates of birth and bank account numbers.  Keep in mind that most documents filed with the courts are public record.  This means that other people, not just the judges or court personnel, can access the documents that have been filed in your case.  With regard to documents filed with the court, Montana law states:

Unless the court orders or the law requires otherwise, in any filing with the court that contains an individual’s social security number, taxpayer identification number, or birth date, or a financial account number, a party or nonparty making the filing must include only:

  1. the last four digits of the social security number or taxpayer identification number;
  2. the year of the individual’s birth; and
  3. the last four digits of the financial account number.

See Montana Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 5.  Accordingly, sensitive data and private information should not be filed or included in a case record, unless specific steps have been taken to preserve privacy.

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Parenting & Child Custody Factors

Child custody is referred to as “parenting” in Montana.  If parents are not able to agree to a parenting plan on their own, the court will decide a parenting plan for them.  However, courts encourage the parents try to agree to a parenting plan outside of court, as the parents are often in the best position to determine what is best for their children. 

Montana law says: “The court shall determine the parenting plan in accordance with the best interest of the child.”  § 404212, MCA.  When determining a parenting plan, Montana courts consider these factors:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • The child’s interactions and relationships with others who significantly affect the child’s best interests
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • Physical abuse (or threat of physical abuse) by one parent against the other parent or the child
  • Either parent’s chemical dependency or chemical abuse
  • The continuity and stability of care
  • The developmental needs of the child
  • Whether a parent has knowingly failed to pay birth-related costs that the parent is able to pay
  • Whether a parent has knowingly failed to financially support a child that the parent is able to support
  • Whether the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is presumed to be in the child’s best interests unless determined otherwise

Parenting arrangements are determined on a case-by-case basis.  This is because no two families are exactly alike.  If you are in need of legal representation to establish or amend a parenting plan,   please call our office to schedule an appointment.

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What Exactly is Common Law Marriage?

It is a misconception that a common law marriage is created simply by two parties living together for a certain period of time (i.e., 7 years).  To the contrary, in Montana, a person seeking to establish a common law marriage must show that:

  1. That the parties are competent to enter marriage;
  2. That there was assumption of a marital relationship by mutual consent and agreement;
  3. That they cohabited; and
  4. That they acquired the reputation, character and status of marriage in public.

In Montana, there is a rebuttable presumption that a man and woman “deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage.” § 26–1–602(30), MCA.  In fact, the law favors finding a marriage. 

Once parties have entered into a common law marriage, however, it cannot be undone.  There is no such thing as a common law divorce.  Parties who have entered marriage must seek a dissolution of marriage the same way as other married couples wishing to end their marriage.  For more information about common law marriage, visit:  http://courts.mt.gov/library/topic/common_law_marriage.

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