2021 Legislature: Bill gives Montana couples option of divorce via arbitration

Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee got their first look at a bill Friday that would add a new way for couples in Montana to divorce. 

Senate Bill 104 would allow Montanans to conduct divorce proceedings in private arbitration rather than in mediation or in district court. 

The bill’s proponents told the committee that adding another option for families going through a divorce would help to unburden overtaxed Montana district court judges.

Katie Mazurek operates a law firm specializing in family law, and spoke in support of the bill.

“In our public court system, we have significant time constraints and lack of resources … that make it hard if not impossible to invest in these cases on the level that they deserve,” Mazurek said.

One opponent to the bill raised concerns that allowing private arbitration would give domestic abusers an undue amount of power, but withdrew their opposition upon learning that arbitrators would have the authority to send the case to district court if they felt it was necessary.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.