If you live in Indiana, ending your marriage requires filing a case in court. In theory, the Indiana divorce process is straightforward: you file a request for the court to legally end the marriage, the waiting period passes, and the court issues an order granting the request and terminating your marriage. However, few divorces in Indiana are that simple and straightforward, making representation by a qualified Indianapolis divorce lawyer critical to protecting your rights throughout the process.
While self-help guides may offer suggestions for a self-guided divorce, only an experienced Indiana family lawyer knows how to navigate the divorce process and avoid the pitfalls risked by the less experienced. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our family law legal team helps you protect yourself and your loved ones so you can start fresh, prepared, and secure on the other side.
Laying Out the Indiana Divorce Process
State law determines divorce procedures, which means that each state establishes its own requirements and process for ending a marriage. On the surface, the Indiana divorce process is straightforward—one spouse files a civil case requesting an order terminating the marriage. But, after sharing a life—and possibly children, too—dividing assets, debts, and child responsibilities adds layers that complicate things. Understanding the divorce process and representation by an experienced divorce lawyer—even before your case is filed—can be essential to protecting your assets and your family.
In general, an Indiana divorce requires filing a formal request that asks the court to end the marriage; demonstrating to the court the assets, debts, child-related issues, and any other matters to be resolved; and finalizing those issues by agreement or by the court order after a trial. Some of the main elements involved include the following:
- How to start the Indiana divorce process and where to file
- What provisional orders are and when they’re needed
- What property issues must be resolved in a divorce
- What child-related issues the divorce must contemplate
- How long a divorce can take
An experienced family law attorney and litigator has the hindsight and skill developed through years handling each of these areas and more in Indiana divorces. Working with such an attorney is vital to ensuring that your new start is from a position of security and stability for you and your loved ones.
How and Where to Begin the Indiana Divorce Process
In Indiana, a spouse initiates a divorce by filing a verified petition for dissolution of marriage. Under Indiana Code § 31-15-2-5, the petition must include information such as:
- The state and county where each spouse resides and for how long
- The date of marriage
- The date the parties separated
- The names and dates of birth of the parties’ children who are less than 21 years old or who are incapacitated
- The grounds for dissolving the marriage
- The request for dissolution (termination) of the marriage
- Whether either party is a lifetime sex or violent offender
Most spouses filing for divorce do so in the county in which they reside, which is the preferred location under the law. The possible grounds for a divorce in Indiana, under Indiana Code § 31-15-2-3, are:
- An irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
- One spouse’s felony conviction following the marriage
- Impotence of either spouse that existed on the date of marriage
- Incurable insanity of either spouse for a minimum of two years
The filing spouse, called the petitioner, is responsible for sending or serving the petition on the other spouse, called the respondent, and demonstrating that delivery to the court. In legal terms, this is called service of process. Formal methods of service include sending the petition and a summons by certified mail or delivering them through a process server. In more amicable divorces, the respondent spouse may sign a document waiving service of process, effectively acknowledging receipt of the petition for dissolution.
A court may grant a petition for dissolution no earlier than 60 days after the filing date of the petition. This period is the same whether the parties settle all matters in the divorce by agreement or require the court to decide one or more matters in the case.
What Are Provisional Orders in a Divorce?
The filing of a petition for dissolution “puts a pin” in the joint financial life of the parties as far as the court is concerned, often freezing what the parties own and owe subject to division in the divorce. However, the parties typically have ongoing financial obligations, such as mortgage loan payments, car loan payments, utilities, and other bills as well as child-related matters to deal with.
To establish rules for each spouse’s rights and obligations while the divorce is pending, sometimes one spouse will ask the court to enter an order setting out those rules. These are often called preliminary, pendente lite, or provisional orders. The Indiana divorce process allows either party to request provisional orders, which commonly dictate items like these:
- Which spouse is responsible for paying which bills
- Which spouse will have possession of the marital residence
- What parenting time schedule the parties will follow
- Whether either spouse pays child support and in what amount
- Whether either party pays maintenance (spousal support)
Again, provisional orders remain in effect only until they are modified or revoked or until the court enters the decree of dissolution. Once the court issues the dissolution decree and any accompanying judgment or orders, those orders govern the parties’ rights and responsibilities from that point forward.
An Indianapolis divorce lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you request and fight for a provisional order that provides financial security and stability for you and your children and defend against improper provisional demands by your spouse.
Marital Property Laws in Indiana
Part of the Indiana divorce process is the division of property interests. This can include real property, such as a house or other real estate; personal property, such as cars, furniture, and household items; and intangibles, such as retirement and financial accounts and interests.
A marriage usually involves the joining of two households, where the couple resides together, contributes toward a single household, and may combine financial assets as well. Many people may be surprised to learn that Indiana divorce law assumes that all assets of either party—whether held jointly or individually—are considered assets of the marriage, meaning of both parties. Under Indiana Code § 31-15-7-4, this “marital pot” includes property acquired before or during the marriage by either party individually or by the spouses jointly. Indiana Code § 31-15-7-5 presumes that an equal division of all assets is just and reasonable, but either party may rebut the presumption by offering evidence to show that an equal division would not be just and reasonable.
Many married couples also have debt to some extent, such as a mortgage loan, a car loan, or credit card debt. Treated similarly to property interests, debts must also be allocated between the parties in the divorce.
Child-Related Issues Raised in the Indiana Divorce Process
When there are children of the marriage, the dissolution action must necessarily address child-related matters, namely, legal custody, parenting time (visitation), and child support.
Legal custody means the authority to make child-rearing decisions such as those regarding health, education, and religious training matters.
Parenting time determines when the child will be with each parent and can be based on the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or on a schedule agreed upon by the parents or determined by the court.
Child support refers to each parent’s obligation to provide for each child of the marriage financially after the divorce until the child reaches age 19. Depending on the circumstances of the parties involved and the facts of the case, the court may also order a parent to contribute toward or pay for a child’s higher education expenses.
In all Indiana divorces involving minor children, each spouse must file with the court a child support obligation worksheet (CSOW). A completed CSOW lists information such as the parent’s income from all sources, work-related childcare expenses, insurance expenses, and support obligations for other children (not of the marriage). Using the information on the CSOW, the court will enter a child support order based on the child support schedule in the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines.
In addition to dealing with these issues, the court may also require each parent to complete a mandatory parenting class as part of the Indiana divorce process.
Child-related issues can be highly contentious in a divorce. Disputes about which parent will have the authority to make decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, how much time each parent has with the child, or a parent’s true income level for determining child support are not uncommon. If the parties do not agree on one or more of these issues, each will need to gather evidence to support the spouse’s position and be prepared to argue the matter in court.
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Indiana
The minimum period of time required to finalize a divorce in Indiana is 60 days from the date of filing the petition for dissolution to the date of the final decree dissolving the marriage. However, few divorces are resolved in this short span. Most divorces involve at least some disputes, and even those that are amicable require time to gather the necessary documentation to demonstrate the assets and debts of the parties. When the parties cannot agree on child-related issues, their agreed course varies significantly from the recommendations in the parenting time or child support guidelines, or there are allegations regarding the mental or physical health of a child in relation to a spouse, a child custody evaluation by a licensed mental health provider may also be necessary.
When the spouses agree on all issues in a divorce, they may file a settlement agreement and request that the court approve the same and dissolve the marriage without a hearing. Again, the soonest the court could grant such a request would be 60 days from the date the petition for dissolution was filed.
In cases in which the parties dispute one or more issues or have complex property, debt, or child-related matters to resolve, a final hearing (a trial) may be required. In those cases, each spouse must present evidence on each point of contention, and the court makes the final decision on those issues.
However all of the matters raised in a divorce are resolved, and even if the parties agree on all issues, the divorce is not final until the court issues a decree of dissolution. The decree is often accompanied by a judgment or settlement agreement that details the division of marital assets, allocation of marital debts, and each spouse’s rights and obligations regarding their children.
Let an Indianapolis Divorce Lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP Help You Through the Indiana Divorce Process
Whether your divorce terminates a short marriage with few assets and debts or a lengthy marriage with complex assets and disputed issues regarding minor children, you need a family law attorney with deep experience in dissolution cases in particular and litigation generally. Keffer Hirschauer LLP is a litigation-focused firm dedicated to protecting client rights. Each Indianapolis divorce lawyer serves clients statewide, capably steering them through the dissolution action so they can begin their new life on solid ground.
For more information on the Indiana divorce process or how we can help in your divorce case, please contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP by calling (317) 857-0160 or complete this online contact form. Don’t delay—starting early is the best way to get your divorce and the rest of your life started on the right track.