Grounds for Divorce in Indiana

Indiana offers couples a variety of options for ending a marriage.

By , Attorney

Sometimes even couples with the best intentions can't avoid the dreaded divorce conversation. This time in your life can be emotional and confusing, but it doesn't have to be. This article will help you understand the basics of Indiana divorce law.

Mixed Divorce State

Divorcing couples in Indiana can file for divorce using either no-fault or fault-based procedure. Some "pure" no-fault states only allow couples to use no-fault grounds—like, irreconcilable differences or separation for a certain amount of time. But others, like Indiana, are "mixed" divorce states and give couples the additional option of citing marital misconduct as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage.

But before you can request a dissolution of marriage, you'll need to give the court a legal reason (grounds) to grant the divorce. Most states have a very specific list of grounds couples can choose from, which may include alcoholism, adultery, or mental illness.

No-Fault Divorce in Indiana

Throughout the United States, couples can end their marriage using "no-fault" divorce. In this type of proceeding, parties can request a divorce without placing blame or providing proof of misconduct. Although each state's requirements are a little different, most require that at least one spouse tell the court that the marriage isn't working and there's no chance for reconciliation.

In Indiana, couples may request a no-fault divorce if the marriage is irretrievably broken. The key issue for the court to consider is whether there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation. If the judge believes the couple still has a chance at repairing the relationship, the court can delay the divorce trial for a short time and suggest that the couple participates in counseling. Most spouses will tell the court that their marital difficulties are too substantial, and there's no chance that they will continue living together as a married couple, which eliminates any doubt.

For many families, marital breakdown is obvious. For example, in one case, the couple was married for 41 years but physically separated for 10. The wife filed for divorce citing irretrievable breakdown, and the husband disagreed stating that his wife hadn't given their marriage a chance since she relocated. But, the only issue the court wanted to discuss was whether there was a chance for reconciliation. The wife testified that even if she moved back into the marital home, or if the court denied her divorce request, she would not continue living as a married couple with her husband. After her testimony, the court granted the request for a divorce.

Marriage and its inner workings are extremely personal, so unless the couple demonstrates to the court an obvious wish to reconcile, the judge will grant the no-fault divorce.

What About Marital Misconduct?

Although no-fault divorce can be much faster and less expensive, there are some situations when it's appropriate for someone to request a divorce based on a spouse's marital misconduct. For example, in some states, the court will consider marital fault in other aspects of the divorce, like property division or spousal support.

Before you consider filing for a fault-based divorce, you should understand that the court expects you to be able to provide proof of your allegations. If you can't convince a judge, you will need to re-file using an alternative divorce procedure.

Indiana allows couples to use fault as a basis for divorce, but only in three specific circumstances. The acceptable fault-based grounds for divorce include:

  • conviction of a felony
  • impotency existing at the time of the marriage, and
  • incurable insanity of either party for a period of at least 2 years.

Is There Another Divorce Option in Indiana?

Yes. Contrary to popular belief, couples can get through a divorce without tearing each other apart. If there's a chance that you and your spouse can calmly discuss the legal issues in your situation, you may be a candidate to file for an uncontested or bifurcated divorce. Keep in mind, both spouses must agree to file a joint petition for divorce for either of these options. If you can't agree on the type of divorce and the grounds, you'll need to proceed using the other alternatives.

An uncontested divorce is the best divorce.

If you and your spouse can agree on all divorce-related issues and you can cooperate long enough to put it in writing (a settlement agreement), you may be able to walk away from this legal process with more time and more money in your pocket.

Major divorce-related issues include:

Once you agree, you will present a joint settlement agreement to the court for the judge to sign. This usually eliminates the need to attend a trial.

Bifurcated divorce is a second-best option.

Bifurcated divorce is a type of legal procedure that allows a couple to split the divorce and the contested issues into two separate sections. This often happens when there's a disagreement on the property settlement, but the parties want the court to finalize the divorce in the meantime. For this to work, you and your spouse will need to agree to the bifurcated divorce and present the judge with a partial settlement agreement. A judge will decide any outstanding divorce-related issues at a later trial.

What Are the Other Requirements for Divorce?

Regardless of the divorce option you choose, you can only get a divorce in Indiana if you meet the residency requirements. You must have lived in the state for a minimum of 6 months prior to filing, and in the county where you bring your court papers for 3 months.

There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period before the court will issue a final judgment of divorce. The courts hope that parties will use this "cooling-off" period to reconcile or to settle all the divorce-related issues prior to requesting a trial.

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