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Missoula Montana Family Law Blog

Understanding settlement conferences

In the past, if you and your spouse decided to get divorced in Montana, you had few options available to you besides going to court. However, due in part to the high costs involved in litigation, both in terms of time and money, as well as the desirability of maintaining cordial relations between spouses, alternative dispute resolution options are increasingly available to help you reach a divorce agreement. We at Cunningham Law Office understand that you may feel confused or overwhelmed by the choices available to you. In this article, we explain a term with which you may not be familiar: settlement conference.

According to the American Bar Association, a settlement conference involves a neutral third party who assists you and your spouse to explore settlement options in lieu of going to court for a hearing. A settlement conference is similar to mediation in some ways. Both are forms of alternative dispute resolution meant to reach an agreement outside of court and moderated by a third party with no personal interest in the case. However, a settlement conference is different from mediation in some significant ways. 

When only one parent wants to modify the parenting plan

It is common for divorced parents in Montana to find that changing circumstances make their current parenting plan impossible to adhere to. However, the difficulties that arise for one parent may not be acknowledged by the other. Even when one parent does not agree to a change, the other can request that the court approve a modification to the original parenting plan. 

According to the Montana Judicial Branch, there are a number of forms for a parent to complete and file to request the modification. These include the following information:

  • The formal request for the changes
  • The reason for the request
  • The proposed schedule

How is personal property divided in a divorce?

You may have a pretty good idea of how you and your spouse will divide your assets fairly in your Montana divorce. But what about the antique furniture and the art collection? To determine what is fair, you will need to find out what they are worth, and that means you will need to hire a professional appraiser.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there are a few things you need to do before you hire an appraiser

How can I file a complaint about the handling of my case?

Dealing with child support issues in Montana usually means trying to get support set up and ensuring you receive or pay the right amount. However, problems may also arise with the child support office. Perhaps they have mischarged you or withheld money. They may have made a decision you do not like or mishandled your case, which led to problems for you. Whatever the case, The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services explains you have the right to file a complaint if you feel wronged.

Before you take formal steps to file a complaint, there are a couple of things to do. You should always talk with the person you feel wronged you first. It may have been an honest mistake or an oversight. If nothing else, the person can explain why they made a decision or took a specific action. In many cases, this is all you need to clear things up.

How a settlement conference may help you avoid family law court

People who are planning to take their family law case before a Montana court may worry that the judge will make a decision without fully understanding the facts. You may wonder if there is an alternative to litigation. At Cunningham Law Office, we often help clients come to a peaceful resolution through settlement conferences.

Perhaps you have heard of mediation, in which a neutral third person meets with spouses and helps them to come to an agreement. If you and your spouse are unable to meet for a discussion without it leading to a dispute, you may have already decided that mediation will not help. While a settlement conference has the same goal, it has some distinct differences from mediation.

How can you effectively plan for and use child support payments?

You know that as your divorce gets closer to finalizing in Montana, you and your ex will need to negotiate the custody and care of your children. This process is critical to creating an arrangement that benefits your children and allows them to continue a relationship with both of their parents. It also allows you to have adequate financial means to provide for the necessities of your children.

If you are at all doubtful that your ex is going to be consistent, timely and cordial about paying child support, you are better off planning for the worst. Assume that you will not be receiving payments and create a budget for yourself that is independent of any money you are expecting for child support. 

Divorcing during your senior years: What do you need to know?

If you and your spouse wish to obtain a "gray divorce" in Montana, there are several considerations you both need to make before you file. Though you may not have to deal with child custody, which is often the most contested aspect of any divorce, your situation may present unique challenges with which younger divorcing couples do not have to deal. 

According to U.S. News, Bowling Green State University sociologists performed a study regarding the phenomenon that is "gray divorce." What they found was that the divorce rate for those aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010, and that 48 percent of divorcees in this category were in their first marriages. The way in which judges treat divorces after 30 to 40 years of marriage is far different than how they treat divorces after five to 10 years of matrimony.

New tax law behind push for divorces in 2018

People who live in Montana and are getting divorced know how difficult it can be to come to a final settlement agreement regardless of the circumstances. When faced with the prospect of paying even more money in taxes if a divorce is finalized in 2019 versus in 2018, one can understandably want to ensure that a final judgement is achieved this year. That is precisely what many may actually be doing in light of some significant changes afoot in the New Year.

As reported by Bloomberg, one provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is to essentially flip flop the tax liability for spousal support payments away from the spouse who receives such funds to the spouse who makes the alimony payments. At first glance, some people might think that a spouse who would be awarded alimony could find this change favorable. However, that may not be the case for two reasons.

Should I keep my home after a divorce?

If you are facing the prospect of getting divorced in Montana, you are also likely facing the prospect of losing some of your assets or belongings. This is unfortunately an inherent part of splitting up a marital home for most people. When it comes to your actual home, you or your spouse might want to keep that rather than sell it. However, there are important facts to be aware of before you make this choice.

As explained by Bankrate, if one of you signs over their ownership in the house to the other person but the original joint mortgage remains in effect, both people will continue to be financially responsible for the property. This means that if the spouse who stays in the house eventually fails to make mortgage payments or is even late on some payments, the other person's credit may be affected. The lender may even pursue that person for the payments.

A look at how middle-aged marriages are affected by divorce

When you think about divorcing couples, chances are your attention is immediately drawn to the many people you know who are divorced early on in their marriage or before the age of 50. However, despite not happening as frequently, couples who divorce in their later years after having been married for decades does happen. If you and your spouse are considering separating despite having been married for a significant length of time, you are indeed not alone. At Cunningham Law Office, we have helped many couples in Montana to work through the dissolution of their marriage. 

While divorce has its difficulties for anyone, you may be facing a unique set of challenges if you are middle-aged or older and seeking to divorce your significant other. According to Psychology Today, although you and your spouse are getting divorced now, there is a good chance that the underlying problems that ultimately lead to your separation were brewing many years ago. Additionally, even though you may feel relief and pride that you are finally taking this step after suffering years in an unhappy relationship, it is vital that you realize that grief will most likely linger for many more years. 

Cunningham Law Office is a family law-focused firm in Missoula, Montana. We serve Missoula, Ravalli County, and the surrounding area.