MontanaChild Custody Law
Montana Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Montana can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Montana court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Montana, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Montana in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence.
The court shall consider all relevant parenting factors for custody:
(a) the wishes of the child's parent or parents
(b) the wishes of the child
(c) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parent or parents and siblings and with any other person who significantly affects the child's best interest
(d) the child's adjustment to home, school, and community
(e) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
(f) physical abuse or threat of physical abuse by one parent against the other parent or the child
(g) chemical dependency, as defined in 53-24-103, or chemical abuse on the part of either parent
(h) continuity and stability of care
(i) developmental needs of the child
(j) whether a parent has knowingly failed to pay birth-related costs that the parent is able to pay, which is considered to be not in the child's best interests
(k) whether a parent has knowingly failed to financially support a child that the parent is able to support, which is considered to be not in the child's best interests
(l) whether the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is considered to be in the child's best interests unless the court determines, after a hearing, that contact with a parent would be detrimental to the child's best interests.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Montana judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Montana, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Montana's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Montana?
Montana has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Do judges in the state of Montana favor joint custody?
Judges in Montana are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Montana do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Do Montana courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Montana?
In Montana, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Montana courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Montana has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Montana have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Montana has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.