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.
An Indiana divorce 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 fact, you may be able to avoid going to court altogether if you get what’s known as an “uncontested divorce” in Indiana.
This article provides an overview of uncontested divorces in Indiana. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Uncontested divorces are known as “divorce with agreement on all issues.” The name explains it all. To get an uncontested divorce Indiana, you’ll need to have reached an agreement with your spouse on 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 can’t seek an uncontested divorce in Indiana. Instead, a judge will decide any contested issues in your case at trial.
Seeking a dissolution of marriage in Indiana when you and your spouse have agreed on all issues, is less expensive and less stressful 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, although different forms have to be filed if you have minor children together. Be sure to use the correct packet of paperwork.
An uncontested divorce can be pretty quick if you meet Indiana’s residency requirements. Before you can file for divorce in the state, you or your spouse must have been living in Indiana for six months. You’ll need to file your divorce case in the county in which you have lived for the past three months.
Once your paperwork is filed, you’ll need to wait 60 days for your divorce to be finalized. This 60-day waiting period is mandatory even for couples who have already reached a divorce settlement agreement.
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 a mediator, 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 children. Any 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.
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.
If you’re doing your divorce yourself, you’re responsible for knowing where to file your papers. Filing your case in the wrong place could cost you time and money, 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.
When you’re ready to file for divorce, you’ll need to gather your paperwork. Within your paperwork, you’ll have to give the court a legal reason or “ground” to grant the divorce. Indiana is a “no fault” state which means that you can seek a divorce on grounds that your marriage is irretrievably broken, but neither spouse is to blame. Typically, couples who seek an uncontested divorce will file for divorce on no-fault grounds because the process is quicker and doesn’t require evidence of one spouse’s fault. Indiana recognizes just three fault-based divorce grounds: spouse’s felony conviction after the marriage, spouse’s impotence, or spouse’s incurable insanity for at least two years. See Ind. Code § 31-15-2-3 (2020).
Indiana Legal Help publishes online divorce forms to help you get started. You can also review the Indiana Judiciary’s Self-Service Legal Center for more information about the divorce process. Once you’ve finished your paperwork, you’ll take the completed set of forms and two copies to the proper county 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.
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. Service is proper if a sheriff or process server hand delivers the documents to your spouse. Alternatively, your spouse could agree to accept service by filing a service waiver form with the court.
Once the 60-day period has passed, the petitioner can submit the final paperwork, including the Waiver of Final Hearing, Settlement Agreement, and Dissolution of Marriage, to the court. The petitioner also needs to bring child support worksheets and related financial documents if minor 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 court clerk will stamp the forms and a judge will review everything. If the judge thinks that no hearing is necessary, he or she will sign the final divorce order and your case will be complete.
At any point during the divorce process, either spouse can consult with a private family law attorney, mediator, or legal aid organization to answer legal questions. It’s important that you understand the legal and financial implications of your divorce. 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 or consult with a local family lawyer.