Going through a divorce is a complicated process wrapped up in an emotional journey. Even when both parties in a divorce are kind to each other as they work through it, the process kicks up a lot of emotions and can make it difficult to move forward.
One thing that can help us to understand how the divorce process works and what you can expect. That way you’re prepared for the legal side of the divorce and can focus more attention on managing the emotional one.
We’ll start by looking at where the divorce process begins. From there we’ll discuss the division of property interests. After that, we’ll take a look at how long the divorce process is so you know how long you can expect things to last.
How Does the Divorce Process Begin?
Those going through a divorce know the process begins long before the legal system gets involved. But in a legal sense, the divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage. In order for such a petition to be official, it must include the following:
- The date of the marriage
- The state and county where each spouse resides and how long they have resided there
- The date that the parties were separated
- The names of the parties’ children who are less than 21 years of age, as well as their date of birth
- An explanation of the grounds for dissolving the marriage
- The actual request to dissolve the marriage
- Additional information should either party be a lifetime sex offender or violent offender
A divorce can’t just happen because you want it to happen. It needs to be granted by a judge and in order to achieve that you must seek the divorce on one of the approved grounds. The grounds for divorce in Indiana are:
- There has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, therefore divorce is the only answer
- One spouse has become a convicted felon
- The other spouse hid the fact that they were impotent and therefore the marriage is founded on a deception
- A spouse has suffered incurable insanity of a period greater than two years
The petitioner, which is what you call the spouse that files for the divorce, has to send or serve the petition to the other spouse, who is called the respondent. Filing for divorce will rock your financial world, since assets need to be frozen for the court to examine. Be prepared for that. You will likely need to work with the court to determine who is responsible for what bills in a preliminary or provisional order.
How Does the Division of Property Interests Work?
One of the things that people worry about the most when it comes to divorce is the idea of their property being split. It is true that your property may be divided between you and your ex-spouse. Property like real estate, cars, furniture, household items, retirement accounts, and the like may all be game.
Indiana law automatically assumes that all of the assets of each spouse, whether owned individually or jointly, are assets of the marriage. This means that you can’t purchase items that are just yours or just theirs, neither can you expect the items that you owned when you got married to be considered your property. This may not be true depending on what clauses you have in your prenuptial agreement, if you have one that is.
The goal of the system is to equally divide the marriage property in a manner that is just and reasonable. However, you can argue that a equal division would not be a just and reasonable division depending on factors from how the marriage played out.
Married couples are bound to rack up some debts while they’re together. Mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt are all too common. These must be allocated to one of the parties during the divorce. So much like property being divided, so too will debts be divided.
While it isn’t property, you should also consider matters of custody. Is it clear which spouse should be the one primarily responsible for the children? If so, how does that affect the way that property should be divided? What property is necessary for the children? These are questions that likely can’t be answered until later in the process but they should always be in the back of your mind.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
The bare minimum that a divorce can take in Indiana is 60 days from the date of filing the petition for dissolution. Unfortunately, it is rare for a divorce to actually be finished in this short of a time. Pretty much every marriage will have a dispute or two and these will require time to settle.
If you have children then you should expect the process to be even longer, as issues relating to children have a tendency to stretch things out. If things don’t get worked out in a timely manner, or in a manner that pleases the court, a child custody evaluation may be called for and this will add additional time to the process.
In the quickest cases, the spouses would agree on all the issues in the divorce and file a settlement agreement along with a request to the court to dissolve the marriage without a hearing. This ideal version of a divorce would still take a minimum of 60 days, as this is the legally required window.
Should I Work With an Attorney?
If you are getting divorced then you are going to need an attorney. It is best to work with one as early as possible so you can get on the same footing together. It will make working together easier should things get tough, and this is divorce we’re talking about so things will certainly get tough.
Work with an attorney that can look out for your issues and can help you to take relax and focus on putting your new life together. Let your attorney handle the legal side of the divorce while you handle the lived side of it.