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Divorce: A General Overview in Gallatin County

The first document that is filed in almost any dissolution case is the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  The person who files the Petition is referred to as the Petitioner.  The Petition, along with the Summons and a temporary economic restraining order, must be formally served on the other party, referred to as the Respondent.  The Respondent then has 21 days to file an Answer to the Petition after being served. 

Soon thereafter, the Gallatin County District Court typically orders the parties to each attend a parenting workshop, participate in mediation and submit agreed-upon deadlines if the case not settle.  Within 60 days from when the Petition is served, each party must complete and exchange a financial disclosure statement.  If children are involved, the parties must complete a Child Support Financial Affidavit.  A child support calculation is required in every dissolution case, which must be reviewed by the court.

If property division and parenting are not resolved at mediation, the parties may engage in discovery.  During the discovery phase, parties may serve formal written questions (interrogatories), requests for production and/or requests for admission.  Although not as common because of the cost, parties may also elect to take their spouse’s deposition to obtain sworn testimony under oath before trial.  The parties may also file their respective lists of witnesses, exhibits and expert witnesses. 

Before the parties obtain a trial date, they are usually required to undergo a second mediation to resolve any remaining issues.  If the second mediation is not successful, the attorneys will attend a pretrial conference where a trial date is set.

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Guardianship & Conservatorship – An Overview

A “guardian” is someone who is appointed by the court to oversee an incapacitated person’s care and decision making. A “conservator” is someone who is appointed by the court to manage an incapacitated person’s financial affairs. Under Montana law, an “incapacitated person” is defined as any person who is impaired because of:

  • Mental illness
  • Mental deficiency
  • Physical illness
  • Physical disability
  • Chronic use of drugs
  • Chronic intoxication
  • Any other cause where a person lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions

Incapacity must be determined by a physician.  A guardian and/or conservator may be appointed only as is necessary to promote and protect the well-being of the incapacitated person.  This may mean that a guardian and/or conservator’s powers may be limited.  In many cases, the guardian and the conservator are the same person.  In other instances, one person may be appointed to make personal care decisions while another is appointed to handle a person’s financial affairs.  The guardian and conservator may be a family member, a professional, or another person or entity suitable for the appointment.  For more information about obtaining guardianship and conservatorship in Montana, call our office or visit: https://dphhs.mt.gov/Portals/85/sltc/documents/legaldeveloper/legalforms/CH%205%20Guardianship%20and%20Conservatorship.pdf and http://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca_toc/72_5.htm.

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Wellness During a Divorce

By Guest-Writer Kathleen Rock, JD, MS, LCPC

Divorce is one of life’s major stressors, even when one or both parties feel it is for the best.  It is additionally stressful if it is something you did not want.  It is essential for divorcing parties to take care of themselves during this time.  If children are involved, the parents must take care of themselves if they are to take care of their children. 

It is important for parties to get adequate sleep, eat well, avoid highly processed foods and get regular, preferably daily exercise.  We often overlook these helpful behaviors when we are under stress and that is when they are most important.  Work-life balance is also important to navigate this change. 

Avoid numbing behaviors including alcohol, recreational or prescription drugs (other than necessary prescriptions) over-working or eating to excess or not eating.  Do not isolate—shame and guilt often accompany divorce and parties often isolate because of this.  Reach out to safe, trusted friends for support.

Finally, while it is healthy to process the experience with a safe/trusted individual, bashing your former partner to others will benefit no one.  Families and friends most often take sides and when the dust settles, permanent ill-will may exist.  A neutral objective professional can help to walk you through this experience to a place of healing.  Ultimately, this can be a positive, growing experience. 

Kathleen Rock is a licensed attorney and mental health professional in Bozeman, Montana.  She can be contacted at (406)587-6290 or kcullenlcpc@gmail.com.

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