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Step-by-Step Guide to Divorce Proceedings in Indiana

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Divorces can be emotional, sometimes even traumatic. Add to that the stress of unfamiliar legal proceedings and the anxiety of not knowing what to expect next, and one might find themselves feeling almost paralyzed in their ability to function. This step-by-step guide to divorce proceedings in Indiana will help to take the unexpected and unfamiliar out of this equation so that you can have more control over the process and reduce the number of negative emotions involved.

Ideally, divorce proceedings will begin before attorneys have been consulted or pleadings filed with the court. This means discussing the concerns involved in a divorce with your spouse and attempting to reach an agreement on some or all of the issues. Narrowing down the points of contention, even if a full agreement is out of the question, will help the process go more quickly, and can save you money. It also gives you and your spouse control over the handling of your affairs, as opposed to turning it all over to the court to make decisions for you. In some cases, reaching, or attempting to reach, a settlement agreement may be impossible. Either way, familiarizing yourself with the most commonly used Indiana divorce statutes will give you a starting point for negotiations, if possible, help you to set appropriate expectations for the likely outcome, should you require court intervention, and allow the remaining proceedings to continue more smoothly.

Whether you intend to hire an attorney or not, it is important that you have a basic understanding of the divorce statutes. When hiring an attorney, this will help you to be properly prepared for your initial consultation and able to assist your attorney in representing you more effectively going forward. If choosing to represent yourself, you will need to be able to present relevant evidence supporting your claims, making it critical that you understand the statutes governing the issues in your case.

Divorces all involve some sort of property division, even if there is very little property to divide. For a quick lesson on marital property and how it is distributed by the court, refer to the blog post What is Marital Property in Indiana. This post provides links to the full statutes governing property division and briefly explains the most commonly used parts of those code. More in-depth information about asset division can be located by using the blog category menu on the right.

Child custody and parenting time is probably the most commonly litigated issue, as parents are generally more likely to agree on other issues but are frequently not in agreement on custody of the children. Many disputes over custody, however, could be settled outside of court if the parties understood how Indiana’s custody and parenting time statutes and guidelines can work to serve the best interests of the child while giving both parties what they want. What Should I Know About Child Custody in Indiana discusses this in detail and furnishes links to all of the relevant statues and guidelines.

Perhaps the issue that causes the most contention in divorces is child support. Similar to custody and parenting time, this may not be necessary and no longer a controversy once the parties are familiar with child support calculations in Indiana. For a crash course see this child support blog which explains how Indiana calculates child support, provides a link to the child support guidelines and support calculator, and describes how a calculation under the guidelines may be rebutted.

Finally, alimony (called spousal maintenance in Indiana) may be an issue in some divorces. Can I Get Alimony in Indiana? provides all of the information a party needs to know about spousal maintenance and when it might be appropriate.

So, you have read the statutes and guidelines, know what the disputed issues are, and possibly worked out an agreement on some or all of those issues. Now, it is time to see a lawyer. If you have reached a full agreement on all issues and wish to forego legal representation by filing an uncontested divorce on your own, great! However, it is recommended that you still consult with an attorney to ensure that your agreement will have the legal effect that you intend. If you simply wish to represent yourself, information on representing yourself in court can be found at the Indiana Judicial Branch’s self-service legal center.

Your attorney will collect the required information from you, determine the grounds for divorce and proper court to hear the case, then file all the pleadings and documents necessary to get your divorce started. Once filing the petition for divorce, you will have to wait 60 days before a final hearing or court approval of a settlement agreement. If you cannot wait that long to get a custody and parenting time order, you may ask for a brief provisional hearing to get temporary orders that will remain in effect until a final hearing can be held (I.C. 31-15-4-1). This is not, however, a good idea when child custody is involved, as we explain in our blog discussing provisional hearings and orders.

During the 60 day waiting period, you and your attorney will gather documentary evidence and recruit witnesses in anticipation of final hearing. During this time your attorney will also attempt to negotiate a settlement agreement on any issues that have not yet been resolved. If it appears that a full or partial settlement might be reached before final hearing, your attorney may recommend mediation. If you do not attend mediation or cannot work out an agreement with a mediators assistance, a final hearing, or trial is next. At the final hearing you will be able to present documentary evidence, call witnesses to testify and have your attorney make legal arguments supporting your position on each issue. The decision is then up to the court, and a dissolution decree (I.C. 31-15-2-16) will be entered making a determination on each of the contested issues.

This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.

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