Divorce is a difficult situation that many families unfortunately have to deal with. Many individuals in this situation are confused and intimidated by the legal process surrounding divorce. In this FAQ article, we seek to answer many of the most commonly-asked questions, and hopefully clear up much of the mystery for those heading down this difficult path.
- An overview of divorce in Indiana
- Technically, most “divorces” in Indiana are actually “dissolutions of marriage.” This is a subtle difference and the terms are often used interchangeably in practice. However, the terms do signify different things. Divorce refers to the termination of a marriage based on the fault of one of the parties. Dissolution, on the other hand, refers to the termination of a marriage where no fault is required. For the purposes of this article and for the sake of simplicity, the terms will be used interchangeably here.
- Indiana is a “no-fault” state, meaning that a court does not need to find one party at fault in order to grant a divorce. Either party may petition a court for divorce, under any of the grounds offered by Indiana statute. These grounds include: the conviction of one party of a felony after marriage; the diagnosis of one party as incurably insane, with no signs of recovery for two years; impotence; and “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” The last of these grounds, “irretrievable breakdown,” is a catch-all term for a variety of issues, and allows for dissolution where the first three grounds do not apply.
- Where can I find the laws governing divorce in Indiana?
- How do I start a divorce?
- A divorce begins when the initiating party, known as the “petitioner,” files a divorce petition in their county of residence. In order to be eligible to file in a particular county, the petitioner will need to show that at least one of the parties has been a resident of the state of Indiana for at least six months, and a resident of the chosen county for at least three months.
- In addition to the initial petition, the petitioner will need to create a “summons” for the other party. This is a notice that will be stamped from the court, which will serve to make the other party aware that a divorce has been filed, and inform them of their rights and responsibilities.
- What are “provisional orders”?
- Provisional orders are temporary orders that one or both parties request the court to the put in place while a divorce is pending. Typically, the parties ask for temporary orders on child custody, child support, and possession of the marital residence. However, provisional orders may cover other areas of concern, as well.
- In order to obtain provisional orders, a party must file a motion requesting them from the court, along with an affidavit providing facts in support of the motion. The court will then set a hearing on the issues, at which both parties will be able to appear and present testimony and evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court will make a determination on the provisional orders requested.
- How much does a divorce cost?
- The costs of a divorce may vary widely depending on the circumstances. Generally, filing fees in a divorce case run, at the time of this writing, at about $200.00. Attorney fees may range anywhere from $1,000 for a simple, agreed divorce, to $20,000 or more for a complex, drawn-out divorce. Other examples of costs that might crop up include records retrieval costs, mandatory pre-divorce classes, costs of service on the opposing party, etc.
- Do I need to have an attorney for my divorce?
- An individual is not required by law to retain an attorney for a divorce. Many individuals choose to undertake the divorce process on their own, and are able to do so. However, it is certainly advisable to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney in most cases. A good attorney can help a party by drafting and reviewing documents, protecting a party’s interests in asset distribution and custody arrangements, making sure that all procedures and laws are adhered to, and, if necessary, preparing and carrying a party through the process of a final hearing.
- Are the parties permitted to come to their own, out-of-court agreement?
- Parties in a divorce are permitted to attempt to resolve their divorce on their own. Parties can do this by developing and signing a written agreement on all pertinent terms (such as division of property, division of debts, child custody, child support, etc.). Many court offices provide templates to be used for this purpose, so check with your local court clerk to see if such forms are available. Once the parties’ agreement has been signed, the parties will then need to sign a waiver of final hearing, and submit both forms to the court. Typically the court will also want the parties to provide a proposed decree of divorce for the judge to sign, as well. The judge will then review all of the documents, and if he finds everything to be in order, he will sign the documents and the divorce will be official. If there are errors in the documents or the judge does not approve of any of the terms, then the court will likely either send the documents back for revisions, strike the submissions and order the parties to resubmit, or set a hearing so that the issues of concern can be addressed.
- Will I need to attend court?
- That depends. If you request provisional orders, then you will most likely need to attend court for a hearing on those matters. Also, if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on terms, you will most likely need to attend court for a “final hearing” to resolve all of the outstanding issues. However, if you and the other party are able to come to an agreement that the court finds reasonable and is willing to approve, then it is possible you will not need to appear in court for the duration of your divorce.
- How does the court make final determinations on custody, asset division, etc.?
- Many of the decisions that the court makes on matters such as custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and asset division are at the discretion of the court, using various standards. For instance, the standard used when making determinations on child custody is the “best interests of the child” standard. However, within that standard, a court will have wide latitude in making decisions in each particular case. You should consult an attorney to discuss your case in detail, and find out more about how a judge may rule given the specifics of your case.
- How long does a divorce in Indiana last?
- That depends on a large number of factors. A divorce will last a minimum of sixty days from the date of filing, because Indiana statute requires that at least that much time must pass before a judge can issue a final decree of divorce. Under optimal circumstances, the parties will sort out all of the details of their divorce and be ready to finalize as soon as the sixty-day deadline passes. However, divorces do not always resolve optimally, and if the parties are not in agreement or there are hotly contested issues, then a divorce could potentially drag on for many months or even years.
If you have additional questions or would like assistance with your legal matter, please contact the Tyson Law Firm, P.C. at any time.
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