Ending a marriage can be stressful and emotionally charged. If you are facing divorce (known as “dissolution of marriage” in Montana), you have options on how to proceed:
Uncontested Divorce. If the parties are in agreement on the division of property and parenting, one or both parties may retain their own attorney to prepare the appropriate pleadings, disclosures and agreements. This can result in a faster resolution for the client who may not be familiar with legal procedures or comfortable drafting legal documents.
Litigated/Traditional Divorce. This approach occurs when one party files a petition for dissolution of marriage in district court. If the parties are unable to resolve the division of property and parenting through negotiations or mediation, the parties may ask the court to assist them in making a decision at a hearing or trial.
Collaborative Divorce. In a collaborative divorce, each party retains their own certified Collaborative Family Law attorney to assist them with their divorce. At the beginning, both parties agree not to involve the court. This approach may avoid unnecessary conflict, promote healthier family and co-parenting relationships, and minimize legal fees and expenses.
We offer legal representation for each option. If you are in need of an attorney for your divorce, please call our office to inquire about scheduling a consultation.
Child custody is known as “parenting” in Montana. A “parenting plan” is an agreement and court order that sets forth the rights, responsibilities and expectations for both parents with regard to their child or children. The objectives of a parenting plan are to protect the best interests of the child, maintain the child’s emotional stability, minimize the child’s exposure to parental conflict, provide for the child’s changing needs as he or she grows and to help the parents to avoid expensive court battles. Most often, a parenting plan will address the following:
- A residential parenting schedule for the child
- How the parents will share holidays, birthdays, school breaks, vacations and other special occasions
- Child support, medical support, health insurance and other child-related costs
- How a parent’s future relocation will be handled
- How future disputes will be resolved
- When to revisit the parenting plan as the child matures
In Montana, a parenting plan should be in accordance with the best interests of the child. The factors used by the courts to determine the best interests of the child are found at § 40–4–212, MCA. Because of the complexities that can arise, we routinely assist our clients in crafting parenting plan arrangements for their children.
Adoption occurs when the rights of a child’s birth parents (or previous adoptive parents) are terminated and substituted for the child’s adoptive parent(s). There are several types of adoption. Stepparent adoption is the most common and occurs when a stepparent adopts his or her spouse’s child. Adult adoption occurs when the proposed adoptee is no longer a minor. Agency adoption occurs when the child’s birth parent relinquishes the child to an adoption agency who assists in placing the child with an adoptive parent. Adoption can also occur through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services where children have been removed from their families because of abuse, neglect or unsafe environments.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (“ART”) allows individuals and couples to expand their families through the use of egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation and surrogacy. We represent individuals and couples who seek to become parents as well as those who are surrogates, egg donors, sperm donors or embryo donors. We represent a diverse clientele and are sensitive to our clients’ reproductive needs and challenges. Due to the complexity of ART arrangements, it is strongly advised, and sometimes necessary, to retain an attorney to prepare a written agreement and assist in any subsequent proceedings to establish parentage.
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. In many cases, the guardian and the conservator are the same person. A guardian and/or conservator may be necessary for a variety of reasons, including physical or mental illness, physical or mental disability, or chronic use of drugs or intoxication. We routinely assist clients with elderly family members or adult children with special needs in establishing guardianships and conservatorships.
It is our experience that mediation is one of the most effective tools in resolving legal disputes. Parties are generally considered to be in the best position to decide the outcome of their own cases—they know their situation and children best. In Gallatin County, new family law cases are usually ordered to attend mediation within the first few of months. Mediation can occur prior to the filing of a legal action and may be required in cases where there is a prior agreement or parenting plan. Mediation often avoids court involvement and can result in a more efficient, favorable resolution for everyone involved. Katharine is a court-approved Mediator in Gallatin County has participated in numerous mediations and trainings.