In New Albany, IN, and the rest of the state, in order to end your marriage, you need to file a case in court. The divorce process seems straightforward, but there are few divorces that are as straightforward as they seem. It’s best to have representation from New Albany divorce attorneys to help protect your rights throughout the divorce process.
Pre-Petition for Divorce
This is the beginning of the divorce case, where many people are researching divorce laws. Many people haven’t filed yet but have been separated for a while and are now getting ready to file. This stage includes everything before the Petition for Divorce. There are many things you can do in this stage in order to save money and time in the divorce process. During this stage, you want to make sure you get organized.
Petition for Divorce
When you file a petition for dissolution of marriage, you are beginning the divorce proceedings. Unless the spouses have filed a petition for separation before filing for dissolution, this will also act as the legal date of separation. This date of separation can be important later on when determining equal distribution of the assets. Typically, the divorce petition has generic statements, but there can be hurtful allegations. These allegations may not have any legal impact on your case, even though they can be upsetting. If you are the spouse receiving the divorce petition, you can file an answer responding to allegations, but you don’t have to. You can also file a counter-petition for divorce, but it’s also not necessary.
Indiana is a no-fault state for divorce, which means the spouse that files for divorce doesn’t need to prove any fault. Most petitions will just say that there is a breakdown of the marriage. There are residency requirements so you aren’t able to just move to the state and file there. During the time of the filing, at least one of the spouses needs to be a resident of the state for six months before the filing.
When a petition is filed, the other parties need to be notified. This can be done in a few different ways, either by serving yourself, hiring a process server or by certified mail.
There is a waiting period after filing the petition for divorce and giving notice to the other party. The law states there is a minimum waiting period of 60 days after filing before a divorce can be granted. Many divorces are going to take longer than 60 days, even if it’s an uncontested divorce. If both parties agree on everything, you still will need to wait 60 days.
If parties aren’t able to come to an agreement on the issues then a final hearing can be necessary. This final hearing is basically a trial in front of a judge regarding the issues, such as division of assets, custody of children, child support, and more. If a divorce is going to require a final hearing, there will be a lot of time before reaching that final hearing, especially if discovery is necessary. There will first be a provisional hearing. This hearing is usually requested after the filing by one party to make some preliminary rulings regarding assets and children. The decisions made at this first hearing will last until the final settlement or final hearing. A provisional hearing may not be needed in every case, but it will usually be necessary for one or both spouses.
Discovery can start happening immediately after filing the petition and any time after, until the final hearing. This is the process where each party is getting evidence from the other with different methods. These methods can include depositions, requests for production, or interrogatories. Discovery may not be necessary. In a majority of cases, spouses agree to informally exchange documentation needed without the need for any formal discovery. This can save money and time on attorney fees. If you think your spouse isn’t giving you all the information requested then you have the option to subpoena during discovery. Discovery can be a short period or longer depending on the evidence needed.
Motions can take place any time after the petition is filed. It’s asking the court to make a decision or take a specific action. For example, a spouse could file a motion to ask the court to set a date for a provisional hearing. They can also file a motion for a final hearing. A common motion in a lot of divorce cases is a Motion for Contempt. This is asking the court to force someone to comply with another court order. There are many potential motions that can be filed, but that doesn’t mean they always need to be filed. If a spouse files too many motions then the court can take a while ruling on these motions and it can prolong the divorce process.
Mediation can also begin as soon as the petition is filed. Some parties may even mediate before the petition is filed in order to reach agreements to make it an uncontested divorce. Parties usually have done some discovery before mediation. Mediation may be ordered by the court or after there is a motion filed by one or both parties. During mediation, spouses hire a mediator to help reach an agreement. This mediator is usually a neutral attorney who is selected. The mediator acts as a go-between to find out what the other wants and to get the parties to come to an agreement.
If parties are able to agree on the issues, including custody and assets, then they submit a signed settlement agreement to the court instead of having a judge decide at a final hearing. Parties can then sign a Waiver of Final Hearing. In this settlement agreement, there should be distribution of marital property and child custody arrangements. In a settlement agreement, the spouses don’t necessarily need to follow the law a judge would, but parties should keep the law in mind in case they aren’t able to reach an agreement.
If spouses don’t reach their own settlement agreement then a final hearing is held to decide on the issues.
Decree of Dissolution
This is the last stage in the divorce process. This happens after the settlement agreement or the final hearing. The decree makes the divorce final and official.
Indiana law does allow spouses to appeal the court’s ruling if they feel like the judge got some things wrong. If the appeal doesn’t challenge specific requirements for divorce then the appeal won’t affect the finality of the divorce decree. If this is the case then a spouse can marry someone else while still challenging the ruling.