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  So  You Have Decided You Want A Divorce:  Divorce FAQ

First, if you have not carefully weighed this decision, please take the time to do so now.  

"Divorce Helpline: Tools to keep you out of court"  written by a divorce attorney with 25 years experience, is one website devoted to helping you decide if you really want a divorce and providing you with information you might not have considered.

If you are ready to proceed, this FAQ provides basic information about seeking divorce in the state of Indiana.

  1. How do I decide if I need a lawyer?
  2. Is there a residency requirement to get divorced in Indiana?
  3. What grounds do I need?
  4. What must I do in order to obtain a divorce without an attorney?
  5. Must I have my spouse’s cooperation?
  6. How do I get a court hearing?
  7. Can I be divorced without a court hearing?
  8. What will happen in court?
  9. How will our property be divided?
  10. What about the kids?
  11. Is there a waiting period before the divorce is final?
  12. Where can I find the legal forms? 

 

 How do I decide if I need a lawyer?

Unless you have a simple, uncontested divorce, it is probably wise to consider hiring a lawyer.  If there are any disputes about whether or not there should be a divorce, or complications regarding property, taxes or child custody, and especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer, you may need a professional to represent you.

Here is information on locating a lawyer in Northern Indiana .

 Free legal services in Indiana may be available to you if you meet income guidelines.

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Is there a residency requirement to get divorced in Indiana?

One of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for 6 months, and the county in which the petition is filed for 3 months, immediately prior  to filing for dissolution of marriage. [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5-6].

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What grounds do I need?

LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE: No-Fault: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5-3].

General: (1) impotence at time of marriage; (2) conviction of a felony subsequent to the marriage; and (3)  incurable mental illness for 2 years. [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5.3].

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 What must I do in order to obtain a divorce without an attorney?

You must prepare a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage,” according to a particular form. 

This form usually must be notarized, which means you must wait to sign the petition until  a Notary can witness the signature. Most banks and credit unions have a Notary Public on staff. There will be a filing fee; this may vary from county to county.

When you take your petition to the courthouse, the clerk will help you fill out a summons form and advise you of ways to deliver it, so your spouse will be properly notified of your action and given time to respond.  You can pay a fee of around $35-50 and have the summons served by a sheriff. There must be a 60 day period between filing the petition and the court hearing. 

This will also give you time to fill out the “Decree of Marriage Dissolution” form,  which is the final document granting your divorce.  Make 3 copies, one for you, your spouse and the court.

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Must I have my spouse’s cooperation?

Having your spouse’s cooperation will simplify the divorce process. A contested ("adversarial”) divorce can be time consuming and difficult.  However, sometimes the divorce is uncontested because the spouse refuses to get involved at all. 

There are legal procedures for obtaining a contested divorce or a divorce when your partner's address is unknown.  Consider consulting a lawyer for information about such issues.

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How do I get a court hearing?

You must file a petition to ask the court to hear your case. You might  wish, also, to file for a waiver of court filing fees.  

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Can I be divorced without a court hearing?

If this is an uncontested divorce with full spousal cooperation, you may file a request for “summary judgment,” which streamlines the process, sparing you a court hearing.  

The law for this simplified form of divorce follows:

The court may enter a summary dissolution decree without holding a court hearing in all cases in which the following requirements have been met: 

    (1) 60 days have elapsed since the filing of a petition for dissolution;

     (2) the petition was verified and signed by both spouses;     

    (3) the petition contained a written waiver of a final hearing; 

    (4) the petition contained either (a) a statement that there are no contested issues, or (b) that the spouses have made a written agreement in settlement of any contested issues.

If there are some remaining contested issues, the court may hold a final hearing on those remaining contested issues. In addition, marital settlement agreements are specifically authorized in Indiana. [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5-8 and 11.5-10].

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What will happen in court?

If you have not requested a summary judgment, you must appear in court to offer your arguments for a divorce, and the court will decide if a divorce is right for you.

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How will our property be divided?  

Often, a divorcing couple will decide about division of property and debts themselves.  If you and your spouse do not agree, the judge will divide it according to Indiana law.

Indiana is an "equitable distribution" state. The court will divide all of the spouse's property in an equitable way and there is a presumption that an equal division is just and reasonable. Marital fault is not a factor.

The following factors are considered:

(1)   the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, regardless whether the contribution was income-producing;

(2)   the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family residence to the spouse having custody of the children;

 (3)  the actual earnings and the present and potential earning capability of each spouse;

(4) the extent to which the property was acquired by each spouse prior to marriage or through gift or inheritance;

(5) the conduct of the spouses during the marriage as it relates to the disposition of their property; and

 (6) tax consequences of property disposition. If there is insufficient marital property, the court may award money to either spouse as reimbursement for the financial contribution by one spouse toward the higher education of the other   [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5-11.1]

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 What about the kids?

Custody decisions are based on the best interest of the child. [Annotated Indiana Code; 31-1-11.5-21].

For more information, please read the Child Support FAQ .

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 Is there a waiting period before the divorce is final?

After the hearing, if the divorce is granted, the judge will file an order that will be recorded at the court.  The length of time required for this will vary from county to county, but is rarely more than a few weeks. You will receive a copy of the formal decree by certified mail.  This completes the process.

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 Where can I find the legal forms?

Legal forms can be obtained through your attorney. 

If you want to prepare your own divorce, check with your local public library.  Some books with information and forms are:

        Divorce Indiana Style (1997) by Randy J. Chamber

Divorce Yourself: the National No-fault Divorce Kit by Dan Sitarz (Nova Pub Co, 1998) 

How to File Your Own Divorce (with forms) by Edward A. Haman (Naperville, IL, Sourcebooks, 1998)

Legal document preparation services and divorce form kits are also available for purchase on the web.  

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