[column type=”one-half” last=”false”]The decision to end a marriage often doesn’t come lightly. When two people make a legal commitment to one another and the union doesn’t work out, each spouse can be left with feelings of failure and sadness. It’s normal to also have feelings of uncertainty when faced with the legal aspects of divorce.
It’s important to understand the divorce laws in Indiana in order to make the right choices regarding the future.
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Indiana Divorce Laws
Child Custody Issues
Property Division In Divorce
Other Marital Issues
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- ADR Available: Yes
- Fault or No Fault: Both
- Parenting Plan Required: Yes
- Property Distribution: Equitable
Grounds For Divorce
Indiana has both fault and no-fault divorce. This means that a couple can file for divorce citing “irretrievable differences” for a no-fault proceeding. For a fault divorce, certain grounds need to be proven to the court in order to be granted. It is more complicated in Indiana for couples to take the route of a fault divorce because of the extra requirement of proof involved. The grounds in a fault divorce are:
- Felony conviction
Divorce Waiting Period
From the day the divorce paperwork is filed with the court, couples must wait 60 days for the motion to be officially entered into the court system. In some regards, this period of time can be called the “cooling off” period. Requirements that need to be met in order to file are:
The Divorce Types
There are two types of divorce in Indiana – contested and uncontested. The person asking for the divorce is officially called the Petitioner and the other spouse is the Respondent. The actual forms that are filed will be contingent on whether there are children involved. The state of Indiana calls the formal document to file for divorce the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If there is consensus between spouses on all divorce issues, then the form would include the word “agreement.”
If there are contested issues, the form filed would be called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with no Agreement. If spouses agree on issues, a hearing is not necessary. In some cases, a court might order mediation if spouses can’t resolve important issues in, for instance, child custody.
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Depending on the situation and the family involved, other options may be explored as alternatives to divorce. In Indiana, it’s possible to end a marriage through an annulment. A legal separation is also available for couples that are not yet ready to end the marriage, but wish to divide assets and handle child custody issues in order to live separately.
The court system in Indiana treats an annulment as though the partnership never happened in the first place. There are instances when a marriage is considered “void” from the beginning, such as marrying a close family relative or entering into a partnership with a person that is already legally married. There are other grounds to file a Complaint for Annulment by proving in court one of the following conditions is true:
- A spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry due to drug or alcohol intoxication.
- A spouse committed fraud (marrying someone under false pretences).
- A spouse was under the legal age limit of 18.
Grounds for annulment are difficult to prove in some instances. For this reason, the evidence should compellingly demonstrate that a marriage is invalid. An experienced attorney can inform you if annulment is the right course for ending the marriage.
A legal separation ruling will give each spouse the freedom to live separately. All of the issues that are handled in a divorce are equally covered in a legal separation, such as child support, visitation and spousal support. For those couples that have a religious practice that prohibits divorce, a legal separation is a feasible course of action. Other benefits may include staying on a spouse’s insurance plan or retaining the ability to a joint tax return.
Regardless of the reason, a legal separation can be for couples that are not ready to get divorced as well as spouses trying to reconcile the marriage.
- Three month residency in the county where the paperwork is filed
- Six month residency in the state of Indiana immediately prior to filing
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In Indiana, mediation is the most commonly used of the ADR types. A neutral third party works with a couple to explore solutions, clarify misunderstandings and negotiate a settlement.
ADR can be binding (legal) and nonbinding (recommendations). It’s important to know that the final settlement can only include issues on which spouses have agreed. For contested issues, a courtroom hearing is likely the next step.
Some of the benefits to ADR are:
- Parties are more likely to abide by agreements which they created.
- There is more time to explain each person’s viewpoint.
- The cost is significantly less than a trial.
- You can choose your ADR mediator.
- Spouses have an active role in the final outcome.
Some Indiana courts have low-cost or no-cost mediation. Certain eligibility requirements must be met in order to be a part of the program.
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Parenting Plan Guidelines
Parents are required to construct a parenting plan which will outline all aspects of childrearing. The goal is to ease the transition for families going through divorce by helping parents adapt to a new structure of co-parenting. Some of the items the court will ask parents to address in the plan are:
- Children must be assured the divorce is not their fault.
- Children must not be placed in the middle of spouses or asked to take sides.
- Children should have the right to spend quality time with each parent.
- Children should be financially supported by each parent.
- Children should be safe and supervised.
- Children should be allowed to spend time with other adults, such as grandparents.
Child Custody Considerations
There are four possible custody types in Indiana:
- Sole legal custody
- Sole physical custody
- Joint legal custody
- Joint physical custody
Legal custody refers to a parent having the right to make important decisions in the lives of the children. Physical custody refers to where the children live. For instance, if each parent is awarded joint physical custody, the children live with each parent in two different residences.
The term visitation refers to parenting time spent by a parent with his or her children. If a parent receives physical custody, the other parent may have visitation. Visitation is usually implemented on a set schedule. For example, the custodial parent may have the children Monday through Friday and the other parent could take care of kids on the weekends.
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Child support provides for the material needs of children when a marriage is over. Children should benefit from the financial resources of each parent; therefore, child support may include one or both parents. The court will use certain factors to determine support payments, including:
- The gross income of each parent
- The number of children in the household
- Costs for health coverage and other expenses for the children
Other financial obligations that affect each parent will factor into the final equation. For example, contributions to a retirement account or spousal support payments from other marriages will be considered in determining child support.
Child Support Enforcement
The court has the power to ensure that child support payments are made each month. If a spouse stops paying, there may be state and federal consequences. Some of the actions the court will take in delinquent support cases are:
- Suspending a driver’s license
- Posting an individual on Indiana’s Child Support Evaders website
- Revoking a professional license
- Seizing bank accounts and personal property
- Intercepting tax returns
- Placing a lien on real estate
Establishing the paternity of children is important for a variety of reasons. Some of the most critical reasons that knowing paternity can benefit children include:
- The father can seek physical custody, legal custody or both.
- The information helps to maintain health records.
- Having a father in a child’s life can bring a feeling of connectedness.
- The medical history of both families can be known
- Offspring can receive medical, social security and inheritance benefits.
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Once married, all assets and debts belong to both spouses, regardless of how and when the property was acquired. In Indiana, even an inheritance can be considered marital property. Some of the points the court will use to assess property division include:
- The contribution of each spouse to acquire the asset
- How the property was acquired, whether before the marriage or as a gift
- Economic circumstances of each person
- The conduct of spouses in the marriage
- The earning potential of each spouse
Division Of Property
Indiana is an equitable state and essentially all the assets and debts of each spouse get put into “one pot.” The court will divide property with the intention of making a fair and reasonable settlement for each party. Some of the assets and debts that are divided include:
- Real estate
- Household items, including furniture and clothing
- Retirement assets, such as IRA accounts and 401(k) funds
- Stocks, bonds and pensions
- Credit card balances and other unsecured debt
- Other liabilities
The Indiana court system has a lot of discretion in dividing marital assets. For this reason, it’s advisable to seek thorough legal information from a divorce lawyer. Parties going through divorce should know that it’s acceptable to make a case to the court that an item should stay with one spouse or the other.
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Alimony is financial support for an economically dependent spouse. In Indiana, spousal support is determined largely by the length of the marriage – but other factors are weighed to determine if spousal support will be awarded. Some additional points the court will consider include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- The division of property
- The education level of each spouse
- The earning ability of each spouse
Once a divorce is final and life has moved on, it might become necessary to modify previously agreed upon arrangements. Life events can affect income levels, such as loss of employment, bankruptcy and a debilitating injury. Employment relocation might warrant changing the parenting time schedule. Divorce agreement revisions might be made in the following areas:
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Child visitation
- Child custody
Prenuptial And Postnuptial Agreements
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can help to protect the interests of each spouse after being married. A prenuptial agreement is constructed before entering into marriage while the postnuptial arrangement is crafted after the spouses are married. Both agreements have the same benefits, such as:
- Protection of property acquired before the marriage
- Designation of intended beneficiaries
- Protection from debt your spouse may carry
A divorce will change the family dynamics, including the time that grandparents see their grandchildren. The ideal situation is one in which grandparents are allowed visitation by the parents. Some situations make it allowable for grandparents to seek visitation, such as a parent being deceased. Grandparents do not have the right to see the grandchildren unless there is a court order in place.
To learn more about the legal issues that will affect your family, contact us today to speak to an Indiana divorce lawyer.
[alert type=”danger” close=”false” heading=”Important Note”] Please be aware that the information on this page is provided for illustration purposes only and it does not constitute legal advice. If you would like more information about the divorce laws in Indiana or the process of filing for divorce, connect with an experienced local attorney today by filling out the contact form. We make it easy to find and connect with a local divorce attorney. It’s Free and Safe! [/alert]