Montana Child Custody & Montana Child Support
UPDATED: March 3, 2020
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Montana courts, like family courts in all states, prefer that parents work together to develop an agreement on the details of raising their children after a divorce because, in the long run, these agreements tend to be in the best interests of the children. If the parents cannot come to such an agreement on friendly terms, then the court will step in to decide issues of child custody, visitation, and child support, and will do so with the best interests of the children in mind. The following are the laws governing Montana child custody and support.
Montana Child Custody:
Montana courts determine all custody issues in terms of the best interests of the children. The court will consider all relevant facts and give the father and mother the same consideration regardless of the child’s sex or age. Sole custody and joint custody are possibilities, as is custody by a third-party guardian – again, the deciding factor is the child’s best interest. As part of this determination, the court will consider:
- The child’s wishes (if s/he is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference),
- The results of any investigation (upon showing of good cause) into the care and welfare of the parties’ minor children,
- The testimony of any person or expert produced by any party or the court itself who can testify as to what is best for the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual well-being of the child, and
- The occurrence of any family violence. The perpetrator of the violence faces a rebuttable presumption that their sole or even joint custody of the child would be detrimental. The “rebuttable presumption” means that the court’s operating presumption is that the perpetrator should not have custody at all (whereas, if there were no such presumption, the parties would stand equally before the court), and it is up to the perpetrator to meet the burden of proof necessary to overcome this presumption.
Montana Child Support:
Child support in Montana is determined by the Melson formula, which is based on both parents’ net income considered in relative proportions, along with the time that each spends with the child and the number of dependants each party has. Whatever the award, it will generally be due and enforceable until the child is 18, 19, and/or graduates from high school.
The Melson formula is not always followed, but a decision to follow a different standard will require supportive evidence showing 1) all the factors that affect the parties’ financial obligations differently, and 2) how applying a standard other than the Melson formula will more effectively preserve the best interests of the child.
The factors that can be considered here are numerous, including, but not limited to:
- Monetary support provided for other family members
- Debts arising during the marriage for the child’s benefit
- Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed for the child’s benefit
- Court-ordered payments for health care and education for the child’s benefit
- Children’s independent financial resources, if any
- Education, training, and/or career opportunities of the parties and/or ability to pursue those things
- A written agreement between the parties including the amount of child support, if one exists
A lawyer can help you sort through your rights and responsibilities when it comes to raising your children after a divorce, and can also serve as your advocate and/or counsel when negotiating a parenting agreement. You can find a lawyer at:
Montana Divorce/Child Support/Child Custody Lawyers:
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