Uncontested Divorce in Indiana
Learn about the process of uncontested divorce in Indiana.
Everyone knows someone—a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor—who’s gone through a nightmare divorce. The repeated trips to court, the bitter arguments over the children, the dwindling bank accounts—it’s frightening even to think about.
But it doesn’t have to be so painful. If you and your spouse are willing to take the high ground by talking, compromising, and working out your differences in a civil manner, you can end your marriage with a minimum of hard feelings. In fact, you may be able to avoid going to court altogether if you get what’s known as an “uncontested divorce.”
This article will explain uncontested divorces in Indiana. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Indiana?
Uncontested divorces are known as “divorce with agreement on all issues.” The name explains it all. To get a divorce with agreement, you have to agree on all the issues, like property division, allocation of debts, custody, parenting time (visitation), alimony and child support. If you and your spouse don’t agree on any of these issues, you’re not candidates for a divorce with agreement.
Divorce with agreement is less expensive and traumatizing than having to go to court and argue in front of a judge. You can get a divorce with agreement regardless of whether you have children. Different forms have to be filed if you have children, though, so make sure you use the correct packet of paperwork.
There’s also one other option to speed up your divorce, although it’s not as common as a divorce with agreement. In a “bifurcated divorce,” you and your spouse agree on some, but not all, of the major issues. Then you write out your partial agreement and give it to the court. The judge will require you to come in for a hearing to deal with the contested (disputed) issues, but will also issue a special order (called a summary disposition order) that memorializes the partial agreement. Even though you still wind up coming to court, you save time and money by avoiding a full-blown trial on every single issue.
You can only file for divorce in Indiana if you meet the residency requirements. You have to have been living in Indiana for the last six months, and you have to have been living in your current county for at least three months.
You also have to give the court a legal reason (“grounds”) to grant the divorce. There are four possible grounds for divorce:
- There has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This means that the marriage is so badly damaged that it can’t be saved.
- One of the spouses was convicted of a felony after they were married.
- One of the spouses is impotent.
- One of the spouses has been “incurably insane” for the last two years.
If you’re trying to get a divorce with agreement, you and your spouse must agree on the grounds for the divorce too. It’s most common to choose irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, because that way no one is at fault.
Where Do I Go to Get Started?
One of the most important things you’ll need to understand about getting divorced in Indiana is how the court system is organized.
Unlike some other states, Indiana does not have specialized family courts. Instead, the superior courts (which are entry-level trial courts) have separate divisions that are assigned to hear family law matters. Indiana also has a system of circuit courts, which are also trial courts and can hear many of the same kinds of cases as the superior courts. Finally, all the courts are divided into judicial districts.
You’re responsible for knowing where to file your papers. If you file in the wrong place, your case could be tossed out and you might have to start over. The Indiana Judicial Branch has a website you can use to locate the correct court depending on the county, city, or town where you’re a resident.
What’s the Process?
There may be some variations in the process depending on the facts of your case (like, whether you have children and where you live), but most divorces with agreement look something like this:
- The petitioner is the person who initiates the divorce. The petitioner must choose the correct forms packet (divorce with agreement, with or without children) to get started. The forms must be completed and printed. Check Official Court Forms for more information on which forms to use.
- The petitioner takes the original set of papers and two copies to the correct courthouse for filing with the clerk of court. All confidential information (like social security numbers, bank account numbers, tax records, PIN numbers, medical records, and child abuse records) can only be filed if, in addition to one copy on regular white paper, it’s also photocopied onto light green paper.
- Rather than filing them, the petitioner should keep the Verified Waiver of Final Hearing, Settlement Agreement, and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage in a secure location, because they will be filed later.
- The clerk of court will stamp all the forms and give the petitioner a case number for the divorce. The clerk will keep one copy and return the other two to the petitioner. The petitioner should keep one copy and mail the other copy to the other spouse (“the respondent”) or the respondent’s lawyer, if any.
- The petitioner waits 60 days.
- After 60 days the petitioner brings the Waiver of Final Hearing, Settlement Agreement, and Dissolution of Marriage to the clerk of court. The petitioner also needs to bring child support worksheets and related documents if children are involved. Finally, the petitioner should give the clerk two self-addressed, stamped envelopes, one for the petitioner and one for the respondent or the respondent’s attorney.
- The clerk will stamp the forms and a judge will review everything. If the judge thinks that no hearing is necessary, the judge will sign the final divorce order and the petitioner and respondent will get official copies in the mail in the envelopes that the petitioner provided.
- Either spouse can consult with a private family law attorney, mediator, or legal aid organization at any point.
There are very detailed instructions for how to obtain an uncontested divorce. It’s critical that you obtain all the instructions and checklists and follow them exactly. Take your time and work carefully. Type everything on a computer or write or print neatly. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, the judge may have questions or concerns about your paperwork and might call you to appear in court for a final hearing to address the problems.
The court clerks who work in the courthouse can’t give you any legal advice. If you have questions, you’ll either need to research the answers (See Indiana Code, Title 31 (family law and divorce)) or consult with a family lawyer.