If you reside in Indiana, you must file a lawsuit in order to dissolve your marriage. The Indiana divorce procedure should be simple: you file a petition asking the court to dissolve your marriage formally, the required waiting period elapses, and the court issues an order approving the petition and dissolving your marriage.
However, not all divorces in Indiana are easy and straightforward, so having a capable Indianapolis divorce lawyer on your side is essential to defending your rights all along the process.
Divorce proceedings are governed by state law. Therefore each state sets forth its own standards and methods for dissolving a marriage. The Indiana divorce procedure appears simple—one spouse files a civil action asking for an order dissolving the marriage.
But after cohabitating and perhaps having children, splitting assets, debts, and parenting responsibilities add layers to the complexity. Even before your case is filed, having a clear understanding of the divorce process and representation by a qualified divorce attorney can be crucial to safeguarding your family and your assets.
In general, divorce in Indiana entails making a formal request asking the court to dissolve the marriage, presenting the court with evidence of the couple’s assets, obligations, and child-related difficulties; and resolving all outstanding issues by agreement or a court order following a trial.
How to File for a Divorce in Indiana
If you’ve decided to pursue a fault-based divorce in Indiana but you and your spouse can’t agree on the terms of your divorce, such as property distribution, child support, and spousal support or alimony. As a result, your divorce is likely to be contested. On the other side, you can petition for an uncontested divorce if you and your husband concur on every point.
Even while most no-fault divorces are uncontested, not all of them are. It is conceivable for you and your spouse to agree that your marriage has broken down but disagree about how to divide assets or parenting time.
Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage
Because divorce in Indiana is referred to as a “dissolution of marriage,” a divorce petition is officially recognized as a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” under the state’s divorce statutes.
The divorce procedure in Indiana is initiated by the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In addition, unless the parties first filed a formal petition for separation prior to filing for divorce, the date of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage also serves as the parties’ official separation date. The equitable allocation of assets may later be based in part on the date of the separation.
Although the written claims in a divorce petition, known as the allegations, are often general, there are situations when the petitions do include unpleasant allegations that you may disagree with. Try not to become upset about it because these accusations usually have no bearing on the legal outcome of your case.
For instance, your spouse can make a general claim that “it would be in the best interest of the child(ren)” for them to be granted sole custody. However, this claim will have no bearing on the final custody decision other than to express their wish for sole custody.
If there is a dispute over custody, the court will make its decision based on eight criteria in accordance with Indiana law. Simply saying anything in a petition does not guarantee that they will receive it.
Now, if you are the party who is getting the divorce petition, you can answer the claims, but you are not required to. According to Indiana’s divorce statutes, submitting a reply pleading is optional but is permitted. As previously stated, just because you do not submit a response to the Petition for Dissolution does not automatically imply that the other party will be granted the requests made in their petition.
A counter-petition for divorce is an option. There are a number of reasons why you might do this, including but not limited to
1) Even if the individual who filed for divorce drops the case, the divorce will still proceed if you submit a counter-petition;
2) you can ask for things like support or sole custody that the other party did not request in their petition.
Grounds for Divorce
In Indiana, you can either receive a “fault-based” divorce or a “no-fault” divorce. In a no-fault divorce, you are not required to demonstrate that your spouse’s bad behavior led to the breakdown of the marriage. However, in a fault-based divorce, you’ll need to show the court that your spouse’s behavior was the primary reason the marriage failed.
No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in Indiana
The “irretrievable disintegration” of the marriage qualifies as Indiana’s no-fault divorce ground (cause). The court will grant the divorce on this basis if there is no realistic prospect of the spouses getting back together.
Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in Indiana
Because fault-based divorces are frequently more acrimonious, expensive, and protracted than no-fault divorces, the former is more common than the latter. However, Indiana still allows for divorces based on blame. Indiana has the following fault-based grounds for divorce:
- Conviction of a felon. If either partner is found guilty of a crime after being married.
- Impotence. If the impotence was present when the couple got married.
- Having an intractable mental illness for at least two years.
Also, read: Grandparent’s rights in Indiana.
Indiana’s divorce rules do provide that the petition for divorce must be filed within the state. Therefore, you cannot simply relocate to Indiana and file there just because you believe the laws to be more benevolent. Additionally, you cannot simply forum shop and register in any Indiana county. According to the law, at least ONE (1) of the parties had to be any of the following at the time the petition was filed:
- an Indiana resident
- stationed at an American military facility in Indiana;
For the six (6) months just before the petition was submitted. Additionally, at least one (1) of the parties had to be any of the following at the time the application was filed:
- being a county resident; or
- stationed in the county at a military post of the United States;
Where the application is submitted three (3) months prior to the petition’s filing.
Even if the other party no longer resides in Indiana, the group can still apply for divorce there as long as they satisfy the state and county requirements. Even if the other party no longer resides in Indiana, the group can still apply for divorce there as long as they satisfy the state and county requirements.
The other spouse may also be qualified to file for divorce in the state where they presently reside, provided they have completed the state and county requirements for their state of residency. However, there cannot be two separate divorce proceedings ongoing in two different states.
Typically, jurisdiction lies with the state where the formal complaint was initially filed. Thus, each state must accord a divorce decree issued by another state credit under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Serving Your Spouse in Indiana
You must provide your partner with copies of all the papers when you file them, and you must show the court proof of service. You must engage someone who is over 18 and is not a party to the lawsuit to serve the documents on your behalf; you cannot serve the papers yourself. For the purpose of serving divorce papers, many people turn to law enforcement (such as the sheriff) or a certified process server.
It is possible to serve divorce documents by:
- mailing a duplicate through certified or registered mail together with a written receipt
- individual delivery,
- delivering a copy to your spouse’s home (you must also send by first class mail).
If this method of serving your spouse is not possible, you can request permission from the court to serve your spouse in another manner, such as by publishing or posting.
Waiver of Service in Indiana
If your partner consents to “waive” service, you can avoid engaging law enforcement or technological infrastructure to deliver the papers to them. A Verified Waiver of Service of Process and Acknowledgement of Receipt of Petition and Summons must be completed and signed by your spouse in order to waive service. A notary public must witness the signing of the form.
You must be informed of the waiting period after submitting the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and giving notice to the opposing party.
Even though many divorces take far longer than sixty (60) days, in an uncontested divorce where all of the issues have been resolved by the parties, you still have to wait sixty (60) days before the court will approve the divorce and issue the decree of dissolution.
A final hearing might be required if the parties are unable to reach a consensus on any or all of the divorce’s issues. A final hearing is essentially a trial in front of the judge about the matters up for decision in the divorce: the division of assets, maintenance (if any), custody of minor children, parenting time, child support, etc. Judge decisions are made regarding all disputed topics after the parties present their evidence.
It can take a while to get to the final hearing in the majority of divorce cases when one must be held to resolve all or some of the problems, particularly if substantial research is required. The pretrial hearing, sometimes known as the provisional hearing, begins.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is normally filed by one party, who then requests this hearing to ask the judge to make a few preliminary decisions involving assets, spousal support, parenting time, child support, and custody.
Until the parties achieve a final legal settlement or the court renders their final rulings at the final hearing, the judge’s rulings from the preliminary hearing are final.
Although they are not always required or requested, provisional hearings may be required in some situations for one or both parties. A preliminary hearing is unnecessary if certain parties can reach a consensus on most or all of the issues. Both parties do save money on legal costs as a result of this.
Divorce Filing Fees in Indiana
When you submit the divorce papers, you will be required to pay court costs. A civil case’s filing fee (such as a divorce) is $157 as of 2021. If you pay to have your spouse served with the divorce papers or if the court clerk charges additional costs, your cost can vary. To get the formation of a contract cost for your divorce, get in touch with the court clerk in the county where you’ll apply.
You can ask the court to waive the legal expenses if you are unable to pay them. By submitting a Verified Motion for Fee Waiver (be sure to use the appropriate fee waiver form for family law matters), you can ask for a waiver. You won’t have to pay any court expenses, such as filing fees or fees for the delivery of service of process, throughout the divorce if the judge determines your motion to waive fees.
Divorce Mediation in Indiana
The Indiana divorce procedure also includes mediation, which can be completed at any time following the divorce petition. In fact, the parties could settle their differences through mediation prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution in order to obtain an uncontested divorce. However, before mediation, the parties typically exchanged information or engaged in some type of discovery.
Sometimes when the court orders mediation by itself, but other times one or both respondents will file an application with the court requesting that the court order the parties to mediation.
Parties who need assistance coming to a decision can use mediation. The mediator is frequently a neutral lawyer, unaffiliated with either side, chosen either by the spouses or the parties’ lawyers. The mediator will choose a time for the mediation and set it. After that, the parties and their attorneys attend the mediation (if they have attorneys).
The participants are typically kept apart throughout the mediation and might not be able to see one another. In order to find out what each side wants and attempt to get the parties to a meeting of the minds, the mediator will function as a go-between. In exchange for something given up by one side, something else could be given up by the other party.
The attorneys serve as the clients’ advocates, outlining to the mediator the facts they think support their clients’ demands and the facts they think support potential awards that might be made to them at the final hearing (trial) should the parties be unable to come to an agreement.
You can decide on all of the issues during mediation, or you can decide on some of them but leave other decisions up to the court during the final hearing. You could, for instance, consent to the distribution of assets between the parties while leaving the determination of child custody to the court.
A mediator can frequently assist in resolving a standoff between the parties and advancing the case’s resolution. In Indiana, mediation has been quite successful in lowering the overall number of trials and final hearings. It can be crucial to choose the appropriate mediator for the party.
Varied mediators have different approaches; some are more assertive in their attempts to persuade the participants to reach a settlement, while others are more relaxed. For various parties, different techniques are most effective. The mediator is governed by Indiana’s laws governing mediation and mediators, and anything stated between both the litigants and the mediator is confidential.
The distinction between mediation and arbitration should be taken into consideration. Arbitration is another alternative conflict resolution process that uses a third party (the arbitrator) to help the parties come to a decision. However, the arbitrator’s ruling is legally binding while the parties are engaged in arbitration.
In contrast, the parties are not required to accept the mediator’s judgments or suggestions when they want to mediate a dispute. Instead, one or both parties may opt to move through with the divorce case, which could still be settled amicably (without the assistance of the mediator), or to have a final hearing (trial).
The parties must each pay their own attorneys for their time, as well as one-half of the mediator’s hourly rate, which can make mediation expensive. Most mediations go for a half-day, but if there are several assets or complex problems to be resolved, they may last entire days or beyond.
The chance will be offered to both parties to provide the court with the proof. The parties’ testimony or the testimony of the witnesses they call can serve as evidence of this. Or it could take the shape of written documentation, such as bank statements and other official records.
Typically, a party will make use of the records that it gathered during the discovery procedure. Each party wants to use testimony and documentary records to simply communicate to the judge their side of the story and the remedies they are seeking.
First to submit their argument is the Petitioner (the individual who filed the Petition for Dissolution). The Respondents (the other party) then have the opportunity to question or cross-examine the witnesses that the Petitioner called. The Respondents then get to submit their witnesses and other evidence, who may be cross-examined, once the Petitioner has made their case.
When a case is in court, the judge decides the law, upholding or dismissing legal arguments. The judge also decides the facts, allocating custody and deciding how to divide the marital estate according to the evidence that, in the judge’s opinion, is the most convincing.
The court decides who is telling the truth and what the facts are in cases where there are questions about trustworthiness, and one party is claiming one thing while the other is claiming another.
Marital Property Laws in Indiana
The partition of ownership rights is a step in the divorce in Indiana. This could include capital resources like a home or other real estate, intangible assets like retirement and bank accounts and interests, and personal assets like automobiles, furniture, and household goods.
Marriage typically entails the merging of two households, where the couple lives together, supports one household, and may also combine financial assets. Many people might be startled to learn that Indiana divorce law presumes that all assets of either party—whether owned jointly or individually—are assets of the marriage, i.e., of both parties.
This “marital pot” contains assets amassed before, during, or after the marriage by either party independently or jointly by the spouses, in accordance with Indiana Code 31-15-7-4. According to Indiana Code 31-15-7-5, an equal distribution of all assets is presumed to be just and reasonable; however, either party may refute this assumption by providing proof that an equal distribution would not be both just and sensible.
In Indiana, a divorce must typically be finalized by the court once at least 60 days have passed. The divorce cannot be finalized unless 60 days have passed from the date the divorce was filed, though the court may grant interim orders after the divorce has been filed.
Each spouse will typically receive half of the total marital estate, which will be divided in half by the court. This does not imply that everything will be divided equally; for example, one spouse might get the automobile, and the other would get the furniture.
The filing fee assessed by the court ranges from $132 to $152, depending on the county you are in. This cost must often be paid in cash, cashier’s check, money order, or certified check.
If you meet Indiana’s residence requirements, getting a divorce without a fight can happen quite quickly. The six months prior to filing for a divorce of marriage, you or your spouse must have resided in the state (or been stationed there while serving in the military).
In contrast to some jurisdictions where couples can remain legally separated indefinitely, Indiana only allows legal separations to last for a year. This gives you a full year to determine if you want to get back together or seek a divorce.