Montana Court Records
The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Montana
Individuals who are married in Montana can end the marriage following a declaration of divorce or annulment by the Montana Judiciary. Records of such family law actions are regarded as public and available to interested persons unless a court order or statute restricts it.
What is a Montana Divorce Decree?
A divorce decree in Montana is a court declaration that frees individuals from the bonds of matrimony. The court declaration, which a family court judge signs, effectively reverts married couples to maiden legal status, rights, and obligations.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What is an Annulment in Montana?
An annulment is a judicial declaration of marital invalidity per MCA § 40–1. Marriages subject to annulment are void or voidable from the moment of solemnization. Per MCA § 40–1–401 and MCA § 40–1–402, these include:
- Any marriage pending the absolute dissolution of an earlier marriage of either spouse;
- Any marriage between person related by blood, or between first cousins;
- Same-sex marriages;
- Any marriage where either spouse was of mental incapacity or infirmity;
- A marriage contract signed under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances;
- A marriage contract entered by force, duress, or fraud;
- A marriage where either spouse conceals information about physical incapacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse;
- Marriage of underage persons without a parent, guardian, or judicial approval;
- A marriage contrary to public policy;
Annulment and divorce actions are dissimilar, but both actions are within the jurisdiction of the family court, and related court documents are public unless restricted by statute or court order.
Annulment vs. Divorce in Montana
Both divorce and annulment effectuate the cancellation of marriage and free the parties from the bonds of matrimony. However, these disparate actions have peculiar court requirements and legal effects. Marriage is legal and valid pending the court declaration of divorce, but this is not so with annulment - the marriage is invalid and void ab initio.
Furthermore, a divorce may happen at any time once either spouse meets the state residency requirement. However, annulment actions have a statute of limitation. The plaintiff must file a petition to annul as soon as knowledge of the invalidity of the marriage surfaces. For example, a time limitation of 1 year applies to mental incapacity to consent after the plaintiff obtains knowledge of the condition. Similarly, a two-year limitation applies to a marriage solemnized by force, duress, or fraud. The law enumerates other time limitations in MCA § 40–1–402(2).
Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce in Montana?
No, an annulment is comparably more expensive than an uncontested divorce as legal expenses quickly add up. In addition to filing fees, the parties must pay professional fees, and cover the cost of preparing medico-legal evidence admissible in court. An uncontested divorce, on the other hand, does not require these fees and expenses.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Montana?
An uncontested divorce is one where the parties agree on the terms of the divorce and do not require judicial intervention on matters such as division of financial assets and debt, spousal support, child support, and custody. Also called a no-fault divorce, the parties typically file based on irreconcilable differences and submit a divorce agreement along with the necessary divorce forms (MCA § 40–4–107)..
Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Montana?
The intending divorcee must visit the courthouse in the county of residence to get the desired divorce forms from the clerk of courts. While the parties may use the forms available online, a better alternative is to answer the official questionnaire that automatically prepares a divorce packet applicable to the uncontested divorce. The judiciary has also provided a diagrammatic explanation of the divorce process in Montana.
Note that before initiating the divorce, either spouse must meet the Montana residency requirement of 90 days or have been legally separated for 180 days (MCA § 40–4–105).. After the decree is final, the court shall make records of the divorce available for public perusal. Nevertheless, the court restricts access to documents that are confidential, sensitive, or potentially injurious to the divorcees or minors involved. To get a divorce record, visit the courthouse in person or submit a mail request using the contact information available using the court locator.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in Montana?
Copies of divorce decrees are available at the office of the clerk in the district court that adjudicated the divorce. Visit the office of the clerk in-person and during business hours to submit a request. The requester may also contact the court ahead to inquire about its mail request protocol. Generally, mail requests involving enclosing a written request in a self-addressed stamped envelope, attaching payment and photo I. D. Either way, the requester must describe the divorce decree with enough information to facilitate a search through the court archives. Typically requested details are the case number, the names of divorcees, and the date of the divorce decree.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability is not guaranteed. Similarly, their availability through third-party websites and companies is not guaranteed, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records is not guaranteed.
How Do I Get a Montana Divorce Decree Online?
As of December 2020, there is no official provision for obtaining divorce decrees online. Ergo, the concerned requester must visit the district court to get a copy of the divorce decree.