With the exception of the briefest relationship involving negligible property, dissolving a marriage can be complex, with laws varying greatly from state to state. Here is a synopsis for Indiana.
Do You Require An Attorney?
Most reasonably intelligent individuals can complete paperwork necessary in a divorce, though it is advisable to consult a legal professional who can review the documents.
Indiana law allows annulments, which declare the marriage invalid from the beginning. Annulment sometimes is desirable for religious purposes, though requirements are strict and the process complex. Couples also can negotiate legally binding separation agreements, but state law limits these to a maximum 12 months' duration.
Grounds for Divorce
Indiana is a "no fault" state, meaning that the petitioning spouse is not required to explain reasons for seeking the divorce and the other party does not have to consent to the dissolution. The petitioning party can cite grounds such as incompetence or a felony conviction of the other spouse, but that usually happens only to gain advantage in custody. At least one party must be a state resident for six months before filing, and there is a 60-day cooling-off period before the divorce is finalized.
If spouses can reach agreement on issues such as custody, property and maintenance through either mediation or negotiation, a court hearing will not be necessary. Many people opt for mediation, which is more economical than a trial and eliminates the risk of an unfavorable ruling.
A solitary order can dispense with myriad issues if both parties are in agreement and there are amicable co-parenting arrangements and minimal assets. For contentious cases, separate filings often become necessary. Attorneys can request temporary orders if either party believes any issue is urgent—if, for example, custody needs to be established for minor children. Orders of protection are an option for individuals who fear an estranged spouse.
Property and Debts
In "equitable distribution" states such as Indiana, if spouses are unable to reach an agreement, marital property and debt are divided fairly and not necessarily allocated 50-50. A judge can consider factors such as earning capacity and financial contribution to the marriage in dividing marital property. Not every asset is marital property; something either obtained before the marriage or bestowed as an individual gift during the relationship can be deemed individual property not subject to distribution.
Custody and Support
There are two types of custody: physical, which determines with which parent children will reside, and legal, which sets parameters for how medical and other decisions are made. Visitation and support are other matters that come into play if there are children, and parents must remember that these are separate issues, with child support being determined by a formula. Support also has tax ramifications—child support is not taxable to the individual receiving it, while spousal support is. Other tax implications of divorce include determining filing status and dependents.
Reaching agreements on parenting issues is easy in some divorces, while others require mediation or a judicial ruling to achieve resolution. Many jurisdictions require both parties to attend parenting classes before a final divorce decree is granted.
Medical matters—including health insurance and responsibility for payment of non-covered expenses—also are addressed in dissolutions. Oftentimes a spouse who was providing family coverage will have to continue for a set period.
Women may retain their married surnames, though if they wish to revert to any previous name, the final decree can incorporate that request. If either party grows dissatisfied with a requirement in any order concerning the case, he or she can request a modification.
Contact a Divorce Attorney
This article is an overview of Indiana divorce law. For specific questions, consult a local attorney.