DIVORCE IN INDIANA
The goal of the process of divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is to conclude the legal relationship between two married persons and finalize any and all issues incidental to the dissolution. These issues might include the division of certain property and debts, child custody and support, parenting time and visitation, and the apportionment of attorney’s fees and costs. Depending on one’s specific circumstances, certain issues may or may not apply.
The process begins with the filing of a Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage which sets forth the initiating party’s request of the Court to dissolve his or her marriage along with the statutory or legal basis for the Court to grant the petitioning party’s request. Indiana is a “no-fault” divorce state, however, the Petition must still set forth a legal basis for the request to dissolve the marriage. Legal bases can include an irretrievable breakdown (the most often cited basis), a felony conviction of either party after the marriage, impotence, and/or incurable insanity. Additionally, prior to filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, at least one of the two parties must have been an Indiana resident, or stationed at a U.S. military installation within Indiana, for six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition.
Often times, a Petition will contain additional requests for relief or requests for provisional, or temporary orders. Sometimes a party will request a hearing date at the time of filing, other times they might not. The law requires that divorcing parties wait at least 60 days after the filing of a Petition for Dissolution to finalize the divorce, either by a final hearing in court or agreement of the parties.
Many clients wonder about whether they will be required to go to court. The answer is “maybe.” Some cases are resolved without the necessity of going to court. Often times, it makes sense for the parties to attempt to settle informally or through a settlement conference. Other times, mediation using a neutral third party will resolve contested issues. Mediators are usually trained, and, many times, are also practicing attorneys. For these reasons, mediators can be very effective in assisting the parties in arriving at a final resolution, even when the issues involved are complex or difficult. Sometimes a partial settlement is reached, but some contested issues remain. Issues that are not resolved by agreement will then require litigation.
Clients often ask about how much a case will cost. The cost of a case depends upon many variables that are often hard to anticipate in advance. As a general proposition, more complex and more highly contested cases tend to cost more money. The cost of a case is also dependent upon the specific objectives and desires of each individual client and the approach that is utilized to accomplish those objectives. It is best to thoroughly discuss the facts and strategy related to your case with your attorney so that questions concerning the expense of a case can be properly evaluated.
Somewhat related to questions regarding the costs of a case is the question of whether one side might have to pay the other side’s attorney fees. As a general matter, each side is responsible for the payment of their own attorney fees. However, the dissolution statutes afford the court the discretion to order one party to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney fees. Many times, this decision is made on the basis of the existence of a disparity of income between the parties, although there are certainly other factors that can be evaluated by the court in arriving at a decision as to how to apportion fees.
Many clients also have questions or concerns related to maintenance and whether they can get it or whether they might have to pay it to the other party. The court can make an award of maintenance if the court finds that one spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated, if the court finds that there is insufficient property to provide for a spouse’s needs and the spouse is the custodian of a child who is mentally or physically incapacitated such that the spouse cannot maintain employment, or where a spouse has had an interruption in their education, training, or employment because of homemaking or child care responsibilities. In this latter situation, the court may find that rehabilitative maintenance for that spouse is appropriate, but any award of rehabilitative maintenance cannot exceed 3 years.
Much can occur between the initiation and finalization of a divorce proceeding, but, eventually, the process concludes with the entry of a divorce Decree. This Decree has the effect of dissolving and terminating the parties’ marriage and legal relationship. Orders related to the division of the parties’ assets and debts will generally be incorporated in the decree as well as orders related to maintenance, child custody, support, and parenting time, if appropriate. Because divorce related issues are so fact-specific, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced attorney who can help navigate you through the process with your best interests in mind.