Everyone seems to know someone—a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor—who's been through a nightmare divorce. Repeated trips to court, bitter arguments, and dwindling bank accounts are enough to fill anyone with dread.
Divorce (known as a dissolution of marriage in Indiana) doesn't have to be painful. If you and your spouse are willing to take the high road through compromise and working out your differences, you can have a relatively peaceful, quick divorce in Indiana. In fact, you may be able to avoid going to court altogether if you get what's known as an uncontested divorce.
This article provides an overview of the process for obtaining an uncontested divorce in Indiana.
Uncontested divorce is sometimes known as "divorce with agreement on all issues." The name explains it all. To get an uncontested divorce in Indiana, you'll need to agree with your spouse on how you will deal with:
If the two of you can't come to an agreement on any of these issues, you can't get an uncontested divorce. Instead, a judge will decide any contested issues in your case at trial.
Going to trial almost always makes divorce more expensive, time consuming, and stressful. But even if you and your spouse eventually reach a comprehensive settlement agreement (meaning that it deals with all of the issues) without a trial, the longer it takes you to do that, the more you're likely to spend on fees for attorneys and experts. (Learn more about how contested issues affect the cost of divorce.)
In contrast, you can save the most time and money by agreeing on the issues before you file for divorce. In that case, it's likely that you can get a DIY divorce, either all on your own or with the help of an online divorce service.
It's often a good idea to have an attorney review your settlement agreement to make sure that it's fair and protects your legal rights, but you might be able to hire a consulting lawyer just for this task. You might also consider speaking with a lawyer if you have a complex financial situation—for instance, if you and your spouse own a business or have retirement accounts that need to be divided between you.
An uncontested divorce can be pretty quick if you meet Indiana's residency requirement. You or your spouse must have been living in the state (or stationed there in the military) for the six-month period immediately before you file for a dissolution of marriage.
Once your paperwork is filed, you'll need to wait 60 days for your divorce to be finalized (Ind. Code §31-15-2-10 (2021)).
Some couples are able to resolve some issues in their divorce, but not all of them. If you and your spouse have reached a partial agreement—on your own or with the help of lawyers and/or mediation—you may be able to request a "bifurcated divorce." In a bifurcated divorce, a judge will review your partial settlement agreement to ensure it's fair and serves the best interests of any minor children. Then, the remaining contested issues would be resolved at a court hearing. Even though you still wind up coming to court, you save time and money by avoiding a full-blown trial on every single issue.
When you're ready to file for your uncontested divorce, you'll need to gather and complete your paperwork. Indiana Legal Help publishes online divorce forms to help you get started, including separate packages of forms for couples with or without children, and with or without a settlement agreement. You can also review the Indiana Judiciary's Self-Service Legal Center for more information about the divorce process. The other option is to use an online divorce service, which will complete the proper forms for you after you answer a series of questions. Many of these services guarantee that your state's courts will accept the forms.
Indiana doesn't provide an option for a joint divorce petition in an uncontested divorce. That means that one of you (the "petitioner") will file the initial forms.
On the main form, the "petition for dissolution of marriage," you will provide basic information about you and your spouse, as well as any children of your marriage who are younger than 21 or are incapacitated. For an uncontested divorce, the form includes a statement that your marriage "has suffered an irretrievable breakdown," which is Indiana's no-fault ground for divorce. (Indiana law also allows three fault-based divorce grounds, but they wouldn't typically be appropriate for an uncontested divorce because you'd have to prove your spouse's fault.)
Once you've filled out all of the forms, you'll need to file the paperwork with the court in the county where either you or your spouse have lived for the previous three months. You'll have to pay a filing fee, which varies from county to county.
You can find contact information, including information on e-filing, on this county directory of Indiana courts. (Ind. Code §§ 31-15-2-3, 31-15-2-5, 31-15-2-6 (2021).)
The clerk of court will stamp all the forms and give you a case number for the divorce. It's important to keep track of your case number because it should be included on any documents filed later in your case. The petitioner must properly serve the divorce paperwork on the other spouse (the "respondent"), unless the respondent files a service waiver form with the court.
In Indiana, the respondent isn't required to file a response to the divorce petition. So your spouse can skip this step if you've already agreed on the issues and submitted your settlement agreement with the petition. (Ind. Code §§ 31-15-2-6, 31-15-2-8, 31-15-2-9 (2021).)
Once the 60-day waiting period has passed, you can submit the final paperwork, including the "waiver of final hearing." If you didn't already include your settlement agreement with the petition, you should include it with the final package of forms. (Both spouses must sign the settlement agreement and the waiver of final hearing.)
After reviewing and approving your agreement, a judge may sign a "summary dissolution decree" without holding a final hearing. At that point, your divorce will be final.