Harper &
                        Lee Law Firm, P.C. Billings Attorneys
                        Bruce Harper Attorney at LawMichelle Lee Attorney at Law
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Family Law

Divorce - Contested or Uncontested

Montana is one of many states that has adopted the "no-fault" divorce law. What that means to you is that the court only has to find a) that the couple has lived separate and apart for more than 180 consecutive days before the petition for divorce is filed; or b) there is serious marital discord between the parties and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation in order to grant you a divorce. One common misconception about divorce (or dissolution, as Montana has now adopted) is that one party can refuse to "grant" the other party a dissolution. This is just not true. There is no way to prevent a dissolution in Montana if one spouse wants it and the other spouse doesn't.

There are also varying issues that can be intertwined in a dissolution proceeding, including parenting of minor children, child support, marital support, and property divisions. By having our experienced family law attorneys by your side, you will be assisted in identifying the issues in your case and will be represented in negotiating a fair settlement. If a fair settlement is not achievable, our attorneys are very skilled in trial practice and will be able to assist you through trial so that your interests will be adequately represented and protected.

Dissolutions can take anywhere from 20 days after your spouse is served with the Petition for Dissolution to over a year in complex cases which involve substantial marital property or complicated parenting issues. Our firm is committed to getting you a fair and equitable settlement in the shortest time possible.

The cost of hiring our firm to represent you varies from case to case based upon the complexity of your case. Some of the factors we look at include the amount of property owned by you and your spouse and any minor children born of the marriage. We base our fees on an hourly rate so that cases in which there are multiple hearings or a trial are going to be more costly.

Child Custody

Beginning October 1, 1997, the words "custody" and "visitation" no longer appear in the statutes governing the parenting of children in Montana. "Parenting" and "parental contact" are now the terms that are used. This change in terminology was in order to eliminate disputes between parents based simply on words and to focus on the parenting of the child(ren) and what is in the child(ren)'s best interests. The first step in determining the parenting of the child(ren) is to file a Parenting Plan. This plan can be as simple or as complex as you would like it to be and can identify every potential parenting issue that could possibly arise while effectively coparenting your child(ren). Most parenting issues are resolved through discussions between attorneys or through mediation. If parents cannot decide how to resolve a specific issue, the court will make a determination based on the child(ren)'s "best interests."

If there is already a Parenting Plan in place, the court may, in its discretion, amend it if it finds that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child(ren) and that the amendment is necessary to serve the best interests of the child(ren).

As for child support, Montana has guidelines to determine support based upon the total income of both parents. Daycare, insurance, and medical costs are included in the computation. The guidelines allocate the amounts to be paid by each parent, taking into account financial resources of the parents and child(ren), the child(ren)'s needs, and the standard of living the child(ren) would have enjoyed had the parents stayed married. Child support continues until a child is emancipated or graduates from high school, but no later than the child's 19th birthday, unless the parties agree, or the court orders otherwise. Child support may be raised or lowered in the event of a change in financial circumstances or needs. Some parents agree to review support periodically. In some instances, child support may be determined in an administrative proceeding. Montana law requires that all divorce decrees address health insurance coverage for the child(ren).

Personal Injury

If you are injured by negligent or intentional acts of others, or if you are injured by a product that is defective, you may have a claim against the person or entities that have caused your injuries. When someone is determined to be legally responsible for injuring someone else, they are liable for the injury, and may be made to pay the injured person back compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages attempt to put an injured person back in the position he or she was in before being injured. Punitive damages may also be awarded in a personal injury case if the person responsible for the damages has acted in a way that would offend a reasonable person. Punitive damages are intended to punish wrongdoers and prevent them from harming others.

Our firm is skilled in handling a wide variety of personal injury cases, including:

  • Automobile Accidents
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Wrongful Death
  • Use of Defective Products
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Nursing Home/Assisted Living Negligence

If you have been injured due to any of these causes, we will not stop working until we have been able to obtain fair and complete compensation for you. Our firm recognizes that suffering from an injury can be life altering and can cause quite the financial strain. Therefore, we will go to work immediately to ensure that your medical bills are paid and that you do not have to suffer financially for another person’s wrongdoing. We work with insurance companies and other parties involved in your case to make sure all your needs are handled quickly and appropriately.

We handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis which means that we don’t get paid unless we recover compensation for you.

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Areas of Practice Index

Family Law

Personal Injury

Phone: 406.255.7474 - Fax: 406.248.1160 - 2625 St. Johns Avenue - P.O. Box 80370 - Billings, Montana 59108