Montana Child Support Laws and Guidelines

The laws governing child support in Montana are different from that of other states. MT child support law sets how much the child maintenance should be, and the duration of such payments, plus it seeks to guide parents in exceptional cases such as deviation, support for disabled children, and retroactive support.

As you may already know, child support (or child maintenance) is a continuous monetary payment made by a spouse to another spouse, guardian, caregiver,  or the state for the upkeep of children after a divorce or separation.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as the “obligor,” whereas the person who is eligible to receive child maintenance is referred to as the “obligee.”

What is MT Child Support Laws?

In Montana, the obligee is typically always the person who has primary custody of the child, which means the person who lives with the child, pays the majority of the living expenses, and has primary custody of the child.

The obligor is typically always the spouse who doesn’t have primary custody of the children and may or may not have custody or access to them.

What does Child Support Cover in Montana?

In Montana, child support covers the following expenses for the child:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Medical expenses
  • Proportionate share of any additional expenses for the child, such as educational or extracurricular activities. The amount of child support that is ordered will depend on factors such as the income of the parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. Child support payments are generally made until the child reaches the age of 18, or until the child graduates from high school if they are still in school at that age.

Child Support When One Parent Lives Outside Montana

To enforce child support orders beyond state boundaries, each state has to have the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in place. Montana is no exception.

The UIFSA ensures that child support processes and procedures are consistent across states. When one spouse lives in another state where the Montana courts do not have the authority to adjudicate or enforce orders, UIFSA reduces these bottlenecks.

As a result of the UIFSA, an MT child support attorney can take legal action against a spouse who now lives in another state to enforce a child support order.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated In Montana?

How Child Maintenance Calculated In Montana

Learn How Child Maintenance Calculated In Montana

To calculate child maintenance, Montana uses the MT Income Shares Model/Percentage of Income Model/Melson Formula. This can be done easily using the Montana Child Support Calculator or Child Support Worksheet.

Montana Child Support Calculator or Worksheet

While a child support calculator can be used to estimate child support, it is not a guarantee of the final amount of child maintenance that the judge will order. A child support worksheet is a form used by the MT courts (or negotiating spouses) to approximate the basic child support obligation of the parents.

Regardless of which approach you use, spouses can decide on a child support sum and amend the worksheet accordingly to ensure it accurately reflects their agreement. Both establish a presumption duty to pay child support.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the administrative law judge, administrator, or court.

How Montana Guidelines are Applied

The MT court will use child support guidelines, which are law-based and are sometimes known simply as “Guidelines.  Guidelines establish a fundamental minimum amount of child maintenance, from which the court can differ after considering a variety of considerations.

The criteria are believed to be rational, and a decision of support that conforms to the guidelines is believed to be in the best interest of the child,” according to the guidelines.

The Montana Guidelines are based on Net Monthly Income. The court also will employ one of two methods after determining Net Monthly Income:

1. The first method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00. The judge will consider the number of children in the household who are the subject of the petition in this case (note that a different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two different households).

2. The second method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Maintenance

For child support calculation purposes, gross income includes:

  • all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
  • self-employment income
  • interest and dividends
  • net rental income from property the parent owns

Even jobless parents are likely to have some sources of income, like:

  • severance pay
  • unemployment benefits
  • retirement benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • disability benefits, or
  • workers’ compensation awards.

An MT family court judge may also allocate an income value to parents who do not currently have income-earning employment (like a second house). If a jobless parent inherits assets that can be sold, for instance, the judge may include the property’s market value as a part of such parent’s income.

Where parents willfully go unemployed or underemployed in order to avoid paying child support, judges may infer (assign) income based on what they are supposed to be earning.

Net Income for MT Guidelines

How to determine Net Income for MT child support

How to determine Net Income for MT child support

Remove the following costs from the total gross income to get the parent’s net income for paying child support in Montana:

  • Social Security taxes, or any mandated retirement plan contributions if the parent does not pay those taxes.
  • Income taxes, both federal and state (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
  • union dues
  • The MT court has ruled the parent to pay the child’s health and dental insurance premiums, as well as additional medical bills.

Parents who have already paid child support for another kid or children (from a previous relationship) may be eligible for a refund.

Is Medical Health Insurance Part of Child Support in Montana?

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Montana

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Montana

Yes, in addition to the amount of support determined by the guidelines in Montana, the parents will be responsible for the child’s health and dental insurance.

Whereas the noncustodial parent is presumed to provide coverage, this can readily be transferred to the other parent if it makes good sense.

For instance, suppose the custodial parent’s employer offers healthcare insurance for the dependent but the noncustodial parent does not.

Factors Montana Courts Consider Before Ordering Maintenance

The following factors must be considered by the court when determining whether Montana Family Code applies:

  • The age of the child and needs; the parents’ ability to assist
  • Financial resources available to the child
  • For a set period of time, you have custody and access to a child.
  • An increase or decrease in the obligee’s earnings or income due to the obligee’s property and assets
  • Childcare expenses incurred by either parent in order to keep a job
  • any other children under the care of either party
  • Any other children under the care of either party
  • What kind of alimony or spousal maintenance is being paid or received;
  • Obligor or obligee receives an automobile, house, or other benefits from his or her employer or business entity.
  • The parties or the child’s special education, health-care, or other expenses
  • The cost of traveling to obtain custody of and access to a child.
  • Cash flow from any estate and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business property, can be positive or negative.

How to Challenge or Modify Child Support Order

A parent must show that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances in order to alter child support. A Montana court may consider an alteration if:

  • a parent’s employment has been lost,
  • migrated to another country,
  • Alternatively, if the custody agreement has changed.

Additionally, if the legal order has been in existence for at least 3 years and the current support amount differs by 20% or $100 from the most recent Guidelines, the obligor may visit the Office of Attorney General Child Support Division (OAG) to explore modifying it.

Steps to Collect Child Support in Montana

Steps to Collect Child Support in Montana

Steps to Collect Child Support in Montana

Getting a child support order in place is only half the struggle in Montana. You’ll also have to collect the money itself. A noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the full amount of child maintenance per month as imposed by the court. Here are the steps for getting child support in MT

1. Open a Child Support Case

Complete a child support application with your local child support agency/office

2. Locate the Other Parent

To begin the child maintenance procedure in MT, the child support services (CSS) office will use the information provided by the applying parent, as well as information gathered from other sources, to try to locate the other parent.

3. Establish Parentage

It’s critical to establish a legitimate relationship with the child when the other parent has been located. The state will assist you in locating the sufficient means. Parents can choose to acknowledge their parentage voluntarily or organize a genetic screening.

4. Establish a Child Support Order

A Montana child support order specifies how much the other parent should pay and includes details such as the payment schedule and provisions for the child’s health insurance.

5. Set Up Payment

Deducting child maintenance from a parent’s paycheck and transferring the money to the other parent or guardian is the most typical method of payment. It’s a simple way to make and track child support payments.

6. Enforce the Support Order

Your MT child support services will enforce the child support order if the noncustodial parent does not pay the full amount or does not pay any. Exposing overdue child support payments to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, and Withholding child maintenance from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are examples of other enforcement measures.

7. Review the Order

Three years after the order is issued, either parent can request their local child support office to revise it. They can ask for a reassessment sooner than three years if a parent’s situation has changed significantly, such as loss of employment or imprisonment.

Montana Child Support Services Office, Number and Login Portal

Office – Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Child Support Enforcement Division P.O. Box 202951 Helena, MT 59620-2951
Phone Number – 1-888-657-1788.
Online Login Portal –

Retroactive Child Support and Arrears

In Montana, there are several potential consequences for failing to pay child support as ordered. These can include:

  • Wage garnishment: The child support enforcement agency can order your employer to deduct child support payments from your paycheck.
  • Income tax refund intercept: The child support enforcement agency can claim all or part of your income tax refund to pay towards your child support debt.
  • Property liens: The child support enforcement agency can place a lien on your property, which can make it difficult to sell or refinance the property until the child support debt is paid.
  • Suspension of driver’s or professional license: The child support enforcement agency can order the suspension of your driver’s license or professional license if you are behind on child support payments.
  • Credit Bureau reporting: Your child support debt may be reported to credit bureaus, which can negatively impact your credit score.
  • Criminal charges: In some cases, failure to pay child support can result in criminal charges, such as contempt of court or non-support of a minor child.
  • Incarceration: In extreme cases, a judge can order someone to be incarcerated for failing to pay child support.

In order to enforce retroactive child support payments in MT, the custodial parent should do the following:

In order to enforce retroactive child support payments in Montana, the custodial parent should contact the Montana Child Support Services Office and request that they open a case to establish retroactive child support. The custodial parent will need to provide information such as the non-custodial parent’s income and employment information, as well as information about the child’s needs and expenses.

The Child Support Services office will then take the necessary steps to establish the retroactive child support order. This may involve sending a notice to the non-custodial parent, as well as potentially scheduling a hearing in front of a judge. Once the retroactive child support order is established, the Child Support Services Office will take steps to enforce the order, such as wage garnishment, income tax refund intercept, or other enforcement measures.

If you feel the arrears are being demanded wrongly, you can learn how to get child support arrears dismissed HERE.

How to Pay Child Maintenance in Montana

In Montana, parents can pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, as long as your order doesn’t state otherwise:

  • by debit or credit card,
  • mail,
  • check
  • bank transfer
  • direct deposit
  • income withholding, or
  • auto-draft from a bank account.

How to Check your Child Support Payment History in MT

Child Support Payment History in MT

How to Check Child Support Payment History in MT

When there are disagreements between the parents and a need to confirm how much money is owed, child support payment records are extremely beneficial.

In Montana, you can check your child support payment history by logging into the Child Support Services online portal. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Go to the Montana Child Support Services website:
  2. Click on the “Customer Login” button in the top right corner of the website.
  3. Enter your login credentials to access your account.
  4. Once you are logged in, you will be able to view your child support payment history. You can check the date, amount, and status of the payments.

If you are not able to access the online portal or if you have any issues, you can contact the Montana Child Support Services Office by phone at 1-888-657-1788 for assistance. They may also be able to provide you with a paper copy of your payment history.

When Does Child Support End in Montana?

The Montana court “may order that one or both parents to support a child until:

  • the child is 18 years or finishes high school (whichever comes last),
  • the child emancipates by getting married,
  • the child’s disabilities are removed, or
  • the child dies.

Nevertheless, if the judge determines that the child is disabled (physically or mentally), the child can receive support perpetually.

Custody Rights of a Child in Montana

Understanding Custody Rights of a Child in Montana

How Does MT Child Support Work if one Parent Has no Job?

In Montana, the amount of child support that is ordered will depend on factors such as the income of the parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. If one parent has no job, the court will typically impute income to that parent based on their earning capacity. Earning capacity is determined by considering factors such as the parent’s education, work experience, and physical and mental abilities.

If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute an income to that parent based on the minimum wage or an amount that the parent could reasonably be expected to earn based on their qualifications. The court may also order the unemployed parent to actively seek employment.

It’s important to note that if a parent is unable to pay the child support due to unemployment or underemployment, they may request a modification of the child support order. They should contact the Child Support Services office and request a review of the case, providing evidence of their current financial situation.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible in Montana?

NO. In Montana, child support payments are neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible by the payer as stated by the IRS. Don’t include child support payments when calculating your gross income to see whether you have to file a tax return.

However, either parent may be eligible for a dependency exemption per child. If the parents can’t agree on who receives the exemption, the judge will set out the terms in a court order.

Getting a Skilled Montana Child Support Attorney

If you are involved in a family law matter in Montana, you may have a lot more questions than answers at this moment. You are not alone; Correspondence with members has shown that using the services of specialized child support attorneys saves a lot of hassles and most importantly, ensures you come out as a winner for you and your kid.

If you need to fight your child maintenance cause in MT with confidence, then you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

Luckily, we have compiled a database of these expert child support lawyers and made them available for the convenience of our members. You can reach them at the click of a button for legal advice and representation on child maintenance.

Click Here to Get our Free Montana Alimony recommendation.

Montana Resource

- Montana Child Adoption Guidelines
- Montana Childcare Guidelines
- Montana Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- Montana Child Support Guidelines
- Montana Divorce Guidelines
- Montana Marital Property Guidelines
- Montana Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check Montana Child Support Payment History
- Montana Child Support Calculator
- Montana Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers


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Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.