Proxy Divorce in MontanaMarybeth Sampsel
Because Montana is the only state that allows double proxy marriage, I often receive questions from individuals seeking a proxy divorce. And while “proxy” divorce is not really an option in Montana, it is certainly possible to file for divorce in Montana even if you do not live within the state. Before you out-of-staters rush to hire a Montana attorney, there are few things you should consider.
First, “proxy” is defined as “a person authorized to act for another.” In a proxy marriage, an individual stands in for one of the parties during the ceremony. So, there are actually three people that are part of the ceremony: the wife, the husband, and the proxy (who is standing in for one of the spouses). Most often you see proxy marriages when one party is overseas or on military duty. During the marriage ceremony, the proxy stands in for the person that is not available. The marriage ceremony takes place, just as it would if both of the parties to the marriage were there an in person. In a double proxy marriage, both the husband and wife are unable to be present, so proxies stand in for both. See more information on proxy marriages and double-proxy marriages here. If you are interested in obtaining a proxy marriage or double-proxy marriage, check out Armed Forces Proxy Marriages at their website.
Because the term “proxy” actually requires an individual to act on behalf of someone, a “proxy divorce” does not really exist. In a divorce/dissolution, the only parties to the case are the husband and wife. No third party is needed to stand in for either party, even if one lives outside the state of Montana. When someone requests a proxy divorce, they likely are asking if they can get divorce in the State of Montana even if they do not live within the State. With today’s technology and easy access to internet and long-distance telephones, it is absolutely possible to get divorce in a Montana court when you live out of state. However, at least one of the parties to the marriage must reside in the State of Montana for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce. It is not necessary that the individual living within the State of Montana be the one to file. If your spouse has been residing in Montana for at least 90 days, you may be eligible to file for divorce in Montana.
If you reside in another state and are considering filing for divorce in Montana because your spouse resides here, I encourage you to speak with a Montana attorney, as well as an attorney in your home state to determine which forum would be the most favorable to your circumstances. Because divorce law can vary greatly from state to state, you may have a more favorable outcome in one state or the other, particularly with regard to property and debt distribution. The best way to ensure you are choosing the best place to file is by speaking to an attorney in each state to determine how the law works and how it may be applied to your case.
Finally, even though technology can allow you to handle your case from a great distance, it is possible that you will need to appear in a Montana court for a hearing or trial. Many courts allow parties to testify telephonically, but it can be preferable or necessary for you to appear in person.