Like any state, Indiana has recorded its fair share of divorces over the past few years. According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has an average divorce rate of 8%, which falls close to the national average of 10%. Additionally, based on the bureau’s American Community Survey in 2018, the cities of Anderson, Evansville, and Richmond were part of the top 25 cities in the country that had the highest divorce rates. These recent statistics shed light on the relative prevalence of divorces within the state.
This article aims to provide residents throughout Indiana with a basic understanding of how divorce works in the state. It will offer insight into the steps involved in the divorce process alongside information related to any legal requirements and factors to help couples navigate the complexities involved should they wish to dissolve their marriage.
Is Indiana a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Indiana is mostly considered a no-fault divorce state, meaning that a person can have a marriage dissolved without having to prove that their spouse committed some form of wrongdoing or marital misconduct. As such, infidelity is not considered sufficient grounds for divorce in the state.
It should be noted that when a party files for divorce under no-fault rules in Indiana, they must state in their petition that an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage is the reason for the dissolution. This generally means that the relationship between the spouses has deteriorated to the point where their marriage can no longer be salvaged.
In spite of its no-fault guidelines, Indiana still allows an individual to file for a fault-based divorce, though they can only do so if:
Their spouse has been convicted of a felony at any time during the course of their marriage.
Their spouse was impotent at the time of their marriage.
Their spouse has been afflicted with incurable insanity for two years or longer.
How to File for a Divorce in Indiana
Either party in a marriage can file for divorce in Indiana, with the only requirements being that one party must be a resident of the state for at least six months and live in their county of residence for a minimum of three months. The same applies if the person has been living at a military base in the state for the same length of time. Filing for divorce first does not grant any legal advantages, though it does give the person who filed for divorce more time to prepare any relevant documents and enumerate their demands.
Steps When Filing for a Divorce
Firstly, a person must draft and file the petition for the dissolution of marriage, after which they must submit a copy to the court clerk in the county where they live or where their spouse resides. During this time, they can work with an attorney to identify the steps involved in filing, determine what their demands will be, and gather any relevant documents or evidence to prove the grounds for the divorce.
The petition must include the following information:
The addresses of both parties and their length of residence within the state and county.
The dates of the couple’s marriage and separation.
The name, age, and address of any children in their marriage who are incapacitated or younger than 21; additionally, the petition must state whether or not the wife is pregnant.
The reason for the marriage’s dissolution.
The type of relief sought.
Information detailing whether either spouse is a violent or sexual offender.
Additionally, if a guardian is seeking to dissolve a marriage on behalf of an incapacitated person under their care, the petition must contain the guardian’s name and address.
Once the court verifies the petition, the person who filed must serve the divorce papers on their spouse. This can be done via mail, in person, or through delivery by the local sheriff’s office. This is also the start of the discovery process, where the parties involved will be given the right to access any and all information that will contribute to the settlement of their dispute; any request for information will be submitted by one party as a “request for production” to the other party or their lawyer. With regards to the divorce process in Indiana, requested information will typically include:
A Verified Financial Declaration form that shows the person’s income, assets, liabilities, and monthly expenditures.
Details related to the schooling and/or daycare of their child/children.
Information related to their employment history.
Demands concerning child custody and/or support, guardianship, etc.
If a person serves a request for production in a divorce, their spouse has up to 30 days to provide the information being requested. If the latter does not comply within the given time frame or attempts to stall, they can be held in contempt and asked to cover the former's attorney's fees. If they still fail to comply after they have already been cited for contempt, they will risk having their case dismissed or being barred from presenting evidence relevant to their arguments during the divorce hearing.
Once divorce papers have been served, both parties must undergo a mandatory 60-day waiting period to give them enough time to prepare their respective sides or reconsider the divorce. Once the period has elapsed, those involved will meet in a final hearing that will resolve the marriage dissolution.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in Indiana
If a no-fault divorce is filed and the other spouse agrees with the issues presented, the divorce will be uncontested and can be concluded through summary dissolution, wherein:
The person who filed the petition for the dissolution of marriage must submit the required documents for a no-fault and agreed-upon divorce.
The person must then file a signed waiver stating that they and their spouse are foregoing a final hearing. The waiver must also state that there are no contested issues or that they have reached a settlement agreement on issues such as the custody of their children and the division of their marital property.
Both parties must wait 60 days after these steps are done, as dictated by the divorce process.
However, if one party disagrees with the issues involved in the marriage’s dissolution, this means the divorce is contested. In these scenarios, a series of hearings will likely take place to resolve the dispute, though this process is more time-consuming and often involves higher court fees as a result. Like with an uncontested divorce, the first hearing in a contested divorce will commence only after the 60-day waiting period has ended; during this time, the lawyers of both parties can begin negotiating.
How Property Is Divided in an Indiana Divorce
Marital property refers to any and all property that a couple has acquired during the course of their marriage, along with anything that either spouse owned before the marriage or acquired after the marriage and before separation. In general, the division of marital property in a divorce depends on the agreement that the parties have reached.
However, if the divorce is contested and the parties cannot reach a mutual agreement, the court will dictate that an equitable division of their property is just and reasonable. This is because Indiana is not a community property state where marital property is automatically divided 50/50 between spouses in a divorce. Instead, the court will decide how to divide the property based on each spouse’s long-term needs, income situation, and contributions to the marriage. Either party can still present evidence to justify why an equitable division is not fair.
Indiana courts also consider any economic misconduct as a factor in dividing marital property. Specifically, if there is evidence that a spouse has misused or fraudulently spent marital assets in the marriage, the person in question will receive less in the resulting division. Additionally, a spouse will likely be given a larger share of the divided estate or significant portions of the marital property, such as the couple's home, if the court grants them full custody of their children.
In divorce cases concerning a couple where one spouse is a soldier who is eligible to retire, marital property can also include their retirement pension. The soldier will give a percentage of their pension to their non-military spouse based on the number of years that they were married while the former was serving in the military. If the soldier is not yet eligible for retirement, the court will take their potential military retirement benefits into account when calculating an equitable division of their marital property.
Unless stated otherwise by local laws, any awards related to marital property in a divorce will be enforced by the court, and failure to comply can lead to a spouse being held in contempt. The court can also release an order withholding the income of the person or use any other legal remedies to reinforce its orders.
Indiana Divorce FAQs
Even if a divorce in Indiana follows a set of straightforward rules and steps, the actual process is often more complex than it seems. Each couple’s case is different, with a number of factors potentially affecting the length of the divorce and the legal guidelines involved.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Indiana
Indiana Legal Services, Inc., is a not-for-profit law firm that caters to low-income Hoosiers who are involved in civil law issues. It is open to couples and families alike who are going through disputes related to divorce, child custody, support obligations, and domestic violence. People can visit the firm’s website to check their eligibility for free or low-cost legal aid and access informational sections that discuss a variety of topics, ranging from the Indiana legal system and public benefits to housing and family law matters.
The American Bar Association established Free Legal Answers, a virtual legal advice clinic, to address the inquiries of people with legal concerns throughout the country. People in Indiana can visit its website to register and submit questions related to civil law matters, including divorce, child custody, support, and paternity issues. A volunteer lawyer will provide answers to queries at no cost. However, Free Legal Answers cannot address matters related to criminal law, and its volunteer lawyers are not available for potential legal representation.
Indiana Legal Help, which is a program of the Indiana Bar Foundation, assists eligible Hoosiers in obtaining legal aid by providing them with referrals to attorneys for low-cost or pro bono representation. Its website allows people to look for attorneys based on their location and concerns, and it is open to those who are dealing with family law matters like divorce, protection orders, and child custody. In addition, it offers access to calendars detailing the schedules of free legal advice clinics and instructional videos that provide individuals with a basic understanding of different civil law topics.
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