WHAT ARE MY PROPERTY RIGHTS IN A MONTANA DIVORCE?
Montana is an equitable division state, not a "community property" state. The difference is Montana courts weigh multiple legal factors to determine an equitable division of the marital estate versus the assumption that all property is community property regardless each spouse's contributions. "Equitable" simply means a fair division based on the contributions of each spouse during the marriage both as a homemaker and income earner. the term "marital estate" includes both assets and debts, thus, debts are equitably divided, too. A homemaker's contributions are just as valuable as an income earner's contributions, specially when there are children involved. In a proceeding for dissolution of a marriage, legal separation, or division of property after a decree of dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the court shall weigh the following legal factors:
1. duration of the marriage and prior marriage of each spouse;
2. spouses' ages and health;
3. standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
4. occupation, vocational skills, and employability of each spouse;
5. amount and sources of income;
6. assets and debts of the marital estate;
7. necessary living needs of each spouse;
8. custody arrangements;
9. whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance or alimony;
10. opportunities of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
11. contributions of spouses that increased the value of the marital estate;
12. decrease in value of the marital estate caused by each spouse;
13. contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or to the family unit.
Under section 40-4-202, MCA, the court is prohibited from considering marital misconduct, e.g., infidelity, in dividing the marital estate. it also requires the court to equitably divide the assets and debts belonging to either or both spouses, whenever acquired, and regardless of whether title to property and assets is in the name of the husband or wife or both. The court must also assume that spouses have a common ownership in all the property and assets of the marital estate. Premarital, gifted, and inherited property is discussed under the Q&A titled, "Are my premarital, gifted or inherited assets divisible in a Montana divorce?".
At the Karem Law Firm, we will guide you through the process of proving your contributions and entitlements to the marital property. We investigate the unique facts of your case, analyze and structure a strategy for the best possible outcome for you, and diligently pursue your rights.