Quite an odd thing to say, but love is not enough. Sometimes marriage stops being fun, and you begin to flirt with the idea of leaving your spouse. The last thing you’ll want to read through in those moments is legal jargon.
I understand that making this decision is never easy, so I have created this guide to ease you out of an unhappy union and into freedom from marital discomfort.
Divorce in Indiana Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Indiana.
Divorce Petition Requirements
In Indiana, residency is the main prerequisite for getting a divorce. To file for divorce in Indiana, either spouse needs to be a resident of the state.
You must have been in Indiana for at least six months prior to submitting your divorce petition in order to be considered a resident. When deciding whether or whether the court has jurisdiction over your marriage and where to file, residency is a crucial element.
How to File A Divorce in Indiana
Filling out the divorce documents is the first stage in the divorce process. The right forms will vary depending on the specifics of your divorce.
Forms for couples who are in agreement about the terms of the divorce and do not have minor children differ from those for couples who are not in agreement or who do have minor children.
A divorce case must be disclosed to the spouse by the party who filed the divorce petition. Your decision to file for divorce must be communicated to your partner.
This is so that the other spouse can be heard, as required by Indiana law, before a divorce judgment can be granted. The petition, documents, and court summons are served by mailing them to your spouse’s registration address.
When a person approaches the court to resolve a dispute or make orders in their favor, they must show why the court should listen to them. This is done by giving evidence supporting your claims, also known as “discovery.”
The discovery process refers to gathering documents that show the history of the marriage, financial standing, ownership of property, and other relevant facts of the marriage.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the conditions of the divorce, such as the division of assets, child custody, or alimony, a divorce hearing may be required.
Either spouse is now free to present evidence in support of their allegations or argue that the law should be on their side.
During the first divorce proceedings, the court may mandate mediation so that you and your spouse can come to an amicable agreement over the terms of the marriage. Both spouses may request that the court appoint a mediator.
This is the last stage of the divorce process. The divorce order frees you from the obligations of marriage and resolves all the legal issues that arose when you wed your partner.
The decree is only issued after the conditions of your divorce have been agreed upon.
This completes the divorce process in Indiana.
The Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Indiana
Like most states, Indiana divorce law provides certain conditions for couples looking to dissolve their marriage. The chief requirement to obtain a dissolution of marriage in Indiana is residency. Either spouse must be a resident of Indiana to approach the courts for a divorce in Indiana.
To qualify as a resident, you must have lived in Indiana for at least six months before filing your divorce petition. Residency is an essential factor in determining if the court has jurisdiction over your marriage and where to file.
In addition to either of you meeting the residency requirements, at least one spouse must have lived in the county where you’re filing your petition. The residency requirements also apply to servicemen stationed at a military base within Indiana for at least six months immediately preceding the petition for dissolution of marriage.
The Indiana Divorce Process
The Indiana divorce process is a complex system, with broad provisions on different aspects of the divorce. These provisions can be overwhelming and confusing, given the emotional strains that divorce brings. I’ve simplified the Indiana divorce process into a six-step process below.
NOTE: If filing the petition becomes overwhelming for you, you may consider using an online legal service. These online legal services guarantee compliance with relevant laws and are often cheaper than law firms. For more info, check out my review of Indiana’s best online legal services.
Step 1: Filing the Divorce Papers
The first step in your marital dissolution journey is completing the divorce forms. The appropriate forms will depend on the circumstances of your divorce. The forms for initiating the divorce process in which you and your spouse agree to the divorce terms and have no minor children are different from forms for couples in disagreement or with minor kids.
There are primarily four circumstances for kickstarting your divorce journey in Indiana:
- Divorce with minor children and with agreement on all matters
- Divorce with minor children and without agreement on all matters
- Divorce without minor children and with agreement on all matters
- Divorce without minor children and without agreement on all matters
The forms for each of these types of divorce are available on the Indiana Legal Help website and contain guidelines on who qualifies to use them. You may fill out the form that applies to you online via your computer or print them out and complete them manually. After filling out the forms, you will need to pay the required fees to file them at the courthouse.
Step 2: Notifying Your Partner
The party filing the divorce petition has to notify their spouse of the divorce case. Your spouse must be aware of your decision to file for the divorce. This is because Indiana laws will not grant a divorce decree without hearing from the other spouse. Service of divorce papers is done by sending the forms, petition, and a court summons to your spouse’s registered address.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this personally if seeing your partner isn’t something you’re looking forward to. Service can be done in any of the following ways:
- By engaging a process server (third party) company to deliver the divorce documents to your spouse
- By certified mail, which issues a receipt confirming that your spouse has received the divorce papers
- By publication: Service by publication comes in handy when you don’t know your spouse’s whereabouts. In such cases, the court may allow you to publish notice of your divorce petition in an approved newspaper in the county or state of your spouse’s last known address.
NOTE: Service and notification of the divorce petition are only compulsory in a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, your spouse waives the notification requirement by filing a waiver form and the petition for dissolution of the marriage.
Step 3: The Discovery Process
When a person approaches the court to resolve a dispute or make orders in their favor, they must show why the court should listen to them. This is done by giving evidence supporting your claims, also known as “discovery.” The discovery process refers to gathering documents that show the history of the marriage, financial standing, ownership of property, and other relevant facts of the marriage.
Some of the documents collated in the discovery process include evidence of tax returns, marriage certificates, bank statements, and medical records. Interestingly, Indiana law allows you to request the production of documents from your spouse. This may be useful evidence of financial need or ability in child support and maintenance claims.
If your spouse refuses, the court may compel them to produce such documents or direct your spouse’s employer or bank to provide the documents.
Step 4: The Divorce Hearing
A divorce hearing may be necessary if you and your spouse disagree on the terms of the divorce, such as property division, child custody, or alimony. At this stage, each spouse is allowed to prove their claims or show a reason why the law should be on their side.
For instance, a spouse seeking custody of the minor children of the marriage may present evidence of a history of domestic violence by the other spouse. The divorce hearing mostly happens in contested divorces, while a final hearing occurs after the disputed areas of the divorce have been resolved.
NOTE: After filing for a divorce, either spouse may approach the court to make temporary orders on custody, separation, or alimony pending the dissolution of marriage. Such temporary orders may also include a restraining order to limit interaction or contact by an abusive spouse.
Step 5: Mediation
The court may order mediation after the first divorce hearings for you and your spouse to reach an amicable settlement on the terms of the marriage. Either spouse may also apply for the court to appoint a mediator. Mediation is handled by a neutral third party and aims to identify the areas of dispute and what compromises can be made between what you and your spouse individually want.
Mediation may also occur voluntarily, especially where the divorce is uncontested. The law requires you to file a settlement agreement with your petition for dissolution in an uncontested divorce. If mediation fails in a contested divorce, the areas of dispute will have to be settled at trial.
Step 6: The Divorce Decree
This is the final step in a divorce case. The divorce decree gives you freedom from the marital vows and unties all the legal knots that came into play when you married your spouse. Being the last step of your divorce, the decree is only given after your divorce terms have been settled.
It is also important to note that Indiana has a waiting period requirement for divorce cases. Consequently, even if your divorce is uncontested and you’ve filed a settlement agreement, you cannot obtain a divorce decree until 60 days after you filed for divorce.
The waiting period requirement aims to give you time to think the divorce over and explore any possibility of reconciliation between you and your spouse.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a divorce in Indiana?
The minimum period for getting a divorce in Indiana is 60 days. This is because Indiana law prescribes a mandatory waiting period of 60 days between filing the petition and obtaining the divorce decree.
The Indiana divorce process may last anywhere between 60 days to several months, depending on the circumstances of your divorce. The divorce process is much shorter in cases where there are no shared minor children, no property sharing disputes, and no alimony claims. As a result, an uncontested divorce may be completed in 60 days, while a contested divorce lasts much longer and could take up to three years in some cases.
What are the different types of divorce in Indiana?
There are two different types of divorce in Indiana. These are contested and uncontested divorces. Contested divorces involve spouses who don’t fully agree on the divorce terms, ranging from child support to alimony, as well as the division of marital assets. On the other hand, uncontested divorces involve spouses who share a common desire to dissolve their marriage and have agreed on the terms of their divorce.
These divorce processes are divided further into the following:
- Contested divorce with minor children
- Contested divorce without minor children
- Uncontested divorce with minor children
- Uncontested divorce without minor children
Contested and uncontested petitions for dissolution of marriage feature a distinct divorce process and duration. For instance, a petition for an uncontested divorce must include a settlement agreement containing the terms of the divorce, while the judge usually determines the terms of a contested divorce at the court hearing.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Indiana?
Hiring a divorce attorney is not mandatory for a divorce in Indiana. However, it is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure your divorce papers comply with Indiana divorce laws.
You should also consider hiring a divorce lawyer if your divorce case is likely to be contested or go to trial. Matters of custody, alimony, and division of marital property are tricky and require legal expertise due to the technical nature of the Indiana legal system and divorce process.
Online divorce services are also a valuable alternative to hiring a law firm, especially if your divorce is uncontested or you’re trying to save costs. If you cannot afford a lawyer, Indiana Legal Help provides helpful resources for self-representation and finding affordable legal representation.
How long do you have to be separated before divorce in Indiana?
Marital separation is not one of the grounds for divorce in Indiana. As a result, you don’t have to be separated before filing for a dissolution of marriage. Although spouses in a divorce process usually live apart, it is not a requirement you have to meet to say goodbye to your spouse.
However, separation may be proof of an irretrievable breakdown, which is one of the grounds for divorce in Indiana. Where you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for a year or more, you may file a divorce petition stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Can I get a divorce in Indiana if I was married in another state?
You may divorce your spouse in Indiana even if you married them in another state. As long as one spouse qualifies as a resident of Indiana, you can file for divorce in the state. Indiana courts derive their power to dissolve marriages from the residency status of the parties.
Interestingly, you may also file for a divorce in Indiana if you married your spouse outside the country, as long as one spouse resides in Indiana.
What do I need to get custody and child support in Indiana?
Child custody is one of the major aspects of a divorce proceeding. If you and your spouse have minor children, the basic needs of these kids must be met even after the divorce. These needs include the time the children spend with each parent, who they primarily live with, and who gets to make important life decisions in the lives of the children.
The Indiana divorce process allows spouses to file a settlement agreement containing the divorce terms. The settlement agreement may also contain child custody and parenting time arrangements. However, if you and your spouse disagree on child custody and parenting time, the court will have to step in.
Indiana courts consider the following factors in making an order for child custody:
- Age and sex of the child
- Wishes of the child’s parent or parents
- Wishes of the child, with more consideration given if the child is at least age 14
- Relationship of the child with the parties, any siblings, or other significant people
- Child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- Mental and physical health of the child and parents
- Any history or allegation of domestic violence of either parent
- Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian (in which case more factors come into play)
- Any other relevant factor
On the whole, custody orders are based on the child’s best interests.
While you must settle custody before getting a divorce in Indiana, you can file for child support during or after your divorce hearing. You can only obtain a child support order regarding the marriage’s minor or mentally incapacitated children. The application for support should state the names and addresses of the parents and the children.
If you’re applying for child support, you’ll need to show the following:
- That your spouse has a duty to support the child’s upbringing
- That the duty to support has not been fulfilled
The court will consider the following in determining whether your spouse has a duty to make support payments or has failed to fulfill them:
- The financial resources of the custodial parent
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the parents had remained married to each other
- The physical or mental condition of the child and the child’s educational needs
- The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent
After considering these factors, the court may order either spouse to make support payments without regard to spousal fault. The court shall order for child support payments ordered under this section to be immediately withheld from the income of the parent obligated to pay child support.
NOTE: Child support orders in Indiana run until the child turns 19 unless the child is incapacitated and unable to provide their own support, even in adulthood. You can also find more information in the Indiana child support guidelines at the court clerk’s office.
Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Indiana?
No, a spousal fault isn’t necessary for a dissolution of marriage in Indiana because it is primarily a no-fault state. Nonetheless, the state treads the fine line between fault-based and no-fault divorce. The court will generally grant your divorce on oral or written testimony that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, you can also file for a dissolution of marriage on the following fault-based grounds:
- Incurable insanity (where your spouse has been incapable of making independent decisions for two or more years due to a mental condition)
- Felony conviction
In all the above situations, you’ll be required to prove the respective faults.
What factors influence spousal maintenance in Indiana?
Spousal maintenance is subject to court findings in Indiana. Where either you or your spouse seeks support, the court will make findings to confirm if you are entitled to such payments. Indiana courts will only grant an order for spousal maintenance where the Judge believes that the following conditions are at play:
- One spouse has physical or mental incapacity that makes them unable to provide for themselves.
- One spouse caters to a mentally incapacitated child, which reduces the spouse’s ability to work or take up employment.
- One spouse lacks sufficient property to cater to their own needs.
In making its findings, the court will also consider the following factors:
- The educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time of the dissolution decree
- Whether a spouse’s education, training, or employment was interrupted by homemaking or child-caring responsibilities
- The earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of presence in or absence from the job market
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment
After considering these factors, the court may order rehabilitative maintenance to help the spouse seeking maintenance gain the necessary skills or qualifications for an improved income. However, such order of maintenance shall not exceed three years from the date of the dissolution decree.
How are marital assets shared in an Indiana Divorce?
Indiana is a unique state concerning marital property division. In Indiana, all property is presumed divisible between spouses in a just and reasonable manner. This means there is no distinction between property acquired by a spouse before marriage or separately during the marriage.
The court determines a just and reasonable division of property by considering the following factors:
- Division of the property in kind
- Granting ownership of the property or parts of the property to one of the spouses and requiring either spouse to pay an amount, either in gross or in installments, that is just and proper
- Ordering the sale of the property and dividing the proceeds of the sale between the spouses
Luckily, this presumption is rebuttable, and you can apply to the court to exclude some of your assets from being split between you and your spouse. The application should include evidence showing that the division of such property is not just or reasonable based on the following factors:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of the property, regardless of whether the contribution was monetary
- The extent to which the property was acquired by each spouse (before or after the marriage)
- Whether a spouse acquired the property through inheritance or gift
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce, including the desirability of awarding the family residence or the right to dwell in the family residence for such periods as the court considers just to the spouse having custody of any children
- The parties’ conduct during the marriage as it relates to the disposition or dissipation of their property
- The earnings or earning ability of the parties as related to a final division of property and a final determination of the property rights of the parties
In addition to the above factors, the court will consider the tax consequences of the property division on each spouse.
Leaving a marriage and your once-upon-a-time lover is never an easy decision. However, it sometimes becomes a necessity. I hope this guide makes your journey out of a painful union as easy as possible, and I wish you good luck in future conjugal engagements.