Montana Family Law on Domestic Violence

In Montana, domestic violence is a serious criminal offense that can greatly impact the offender's rights regarding family law matters, such as divorce proceedings and child custody. The table below outlines Montana's domestic violence law (referred to as "partner or family member assault" in Montana).

Code Section

Montana Code section 45-5-206: Partner or Family Member Assault (Domestic Assault)

What's Prohibited?

  • Purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to a partner or family member
  • Negligently causing bodily injury to a partner or family member with a weapon, or
  • Purposely or knowingly causing reasonable apprehension of bodily injury in a partner or family member

Definitions

Family member: Mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, and other past or present family members of a household.

Partner: Spouses, former spouses, people who have a child in common, and people who have been or are currently in a dating or ongoing intimate relationship.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Family courts in Montana determine child custody and parenting plans in accordance with the best interest of the child. There are many factors that the courts take into consideration, including whether or not domestic violence, or the threat of domestic violence, has been committed by one parent against the other parent or the child. While an incident of domestic abuse doesn't automatically preclude a parent from being awarded child custody, it is a factor that the court takes into serious consideration when determining the parenting plan would be in the best interest of the child.

Temporary Restraining Order

In a proceeding for the dissolution of a marriage or for legal separation, either party that requests temporary maintenance, temporary support of a child of the marriage, or a temporary family support order may also request that the court issue a temporary injunction that:

  • Enjoins a party from molesting or disturbing the peace of the other party or of any family member
  • Excludes a party from the family home or from the home of the other party upon a showing that physical or emotional harm would otherwise result
  • Enjoins a party from removing a child from the jurisdiction of the court
  • Orders a party to complete counseling (including alcohol or chemical dependency counseling)

Even if a petition for divorce hasn't been filed, victims of domestic violence can petition the court for a restraining order (also referred to as an order of protection). The court will determine the specifics of the restraining order, but protective orders often include a no contact or peaceful contact provision, a stay away provision, a move out provision, a firearm provision, and a counseling provision. While restraining orders can't prevent the abuser from stalking or hurting the victim, they do allow the victim to call the police and have the abuser arrested if a provision of the restraining order is violated.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Montana's family law on domestic violence contact a local family law attorney or criminal defense lawyer.

If you're a domestic violence survivor there is help available for you. During an emergency dial 911, and when you're safe contact the Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.