Indiana Divorce Laws
By Beverly Bird
Dealing with the unknown can be one of the most difficult aspects of divorce, but if you live in Indiana, it’s unlikely you’ll have many surprises. Other than issues of property division, Indiana’s family law statutes are relatively specific. In some respects, they are also restrictive. When it comes to divorce, the state's legislature leaves few gray areas.
You’re limited to filing for divorce on one of only four grounds in Indiana. The state does not recognize any of the usual fault grounds, such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. You can file for fault if your spouse was convicted of a felony after you were married, if he’s been diagnosed as incurably insane and has shown no signs of recovery for two years, or if you married him only to find out he was impotent. If none of those circumstances apply, you must file on the no-fault ground of “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” You don’t have a burden of proof to convince the court this is true; the fact that you feel that way is enough.
Indiana’s divorce procedure begins with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If you need temporary relief, as with support or custody, you must ask for it in your petition. The court will schedule your case for a provisional hearing with a judge relatively quickly. He will issue orders designed to maintain your financial status quo and ensure time with your children. These orders are temporary and are not binding past the date of your final divorce hearing. If your divorce is particularly contentious, the judge can order you to attend mediation. The mediator will work with you and your spouse and give a written summary to the judge to help guide him as to how he might decide your issues when you get to trial. If you do manage to mediate a resolution of your issues, you can submit a settlement agreement to the court and the court will grant you a divorce.
Indiana is an equitable distribution state. If a judge has to make a decision regarding your property, he will divide it down the middle, then make adjustments to each column until he decides that the division is fair. Although the state has limited fault grounds for divorce, a judge is permitted to consider fault when deciding property issues if one spouse drained marital assets, as by having an extramarital affair. He might also award the marital home to the custodial parent, if you have children, to avoid disrupting their lives any more than is necessary because of your divorce. Indiana courts determine alimony on an individual basis, but the state’s statutes limit its duration to no more than three years.
Like all states, Indiana bases custody decisions on the “best interests of the child.” Indiana considers your child’s wishes in determining his best interests, particularly if he is older than 14. If you can’t agree on a visitation schedule, the state will implement a standard schedule of one weeknight and every other weekend with the noncustodial parent. Indiana uses the income shares model to calculate child support. The court first adds both parents’ incomes together to determine how much of that total should go to your child’s care. Then the court divides that number proportionately between you and your spouse, based on the percentage you contribute to your combined total incomes. If you contribute half the combined income, you would pay half of the amount allotted for your child’s care to his custodial parent.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.