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Understanding the Indiana divorce process

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Family Law

It is not uncommon for married Indiana couples to put off divorce simply because they feel intimidated, confused or overwhelmed by the process. If you have never been through a divorce before, these feelings are understandable, especially if you are not familiar with the court system.

It is true that the divorce process can be complicated. There are various requirements and deadlines. All steps must be completed correctly, since even a simple mistake or missed deadline could delay the process or leave you with an unfair outcome that could have been avoided.

A basic understanding of the Indiana divorce process can help ease your mind and answer many of your questions. Remember that the divorce process is temporary and your divorce will eventually be finalized, while staying in a bad marriage is not.

Let go of any assumptions you have

First, forget anything you have heard or been told about how horrible the process is. Just as everyone’s marriage is different, so is everyone’s divorce.

Perhaps you know someone who went through a particularly bad divorce that dragged on for years. Know that this is not the case with all divorces.

In fact, you and your spouse largely control the process. Many times, complications are the result of the spouse’s behavior or actions. In theory, the divorce process is straightforward. Someone files a divorce petition, the required waiting period passes and a court issues you a divorce order.

Typically, the most complex parts of the process are property division and child custody. If you do not have children, you will still likely need to handle property division.

Filing and serving the petition

The first step in the process involves filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. The petition must contain certain information, including the grounds for dissolving the marriage.

Although there are specific grounds you can allege, such as incurable insanity or impotence, the general “catch-all” grounds are an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This means your marriage has gone beyond the reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

The spouse who files the petition is called the petitioner and the spouse who receives the petition is called the respondent. The petitioner must serve the respondent with the divorce petition.

If your spouse agrees with the divorce, they can simply sign a document acknowledging service. Otherwise, they can be served by certified mail or a process server.

A divorce cannot be finalized until 60 days have passed since the filing of the petition for dissolution. The purpose of this waiting period is to allow both spouses to confirm divorce is what they truly want and provide time for matters such as property division or parenting time to be negotiated.

Property division and parenting time

Indiana law requires marital property to be divided in a just and reasonable manner. Marital property is generally all property acquired during your marriage.

Marital property is typically divided equally, as courts often consider that to be just and reasonable. There may be some cases where an unequal division of marital property is appropriate.

These are the issues you will address during your 60-day waiting period. You and your spouse will identify your marital property and try to agree on a value for each, as well as how it will be divided. The same concept applies to marital debts. You will also use this time to agree on a parenting time arrangement if you have children.

If you do not reach a complete agreement, your divorce will be scheduled for a hearing in front of a judge who makes these decisions for you. If you do reach an agreement, the terms of the agreement are usually put in writing and filed with the court.

Once the 60-day waiting period is over, your divorce is final. The process usually takes longer if you have no agreement and go to a hearing.