Divorce

4 Things To Do Before Filing Divorce Papers In Indiana

A divorce is always difficult for anyone who’s involved, but you can take some steps in advance that will make the divorce process just a bit easier.

If your spouse is the person who is filing for the divorce, you will need to take these steps as soon as you are served with the divorce papers:

  • Make copies of every document that may be important.
  • Take direct action to protect yourself financially.
  • Put the kids first – they are your top priority.
  • It is imperative to discuss your situation with a good divorce attorney.

STEP ONE: MAKE COPIES OF EVERYTHING

The first important step that you should take before a divorce is to go through all of your files and household papers and make copies of everything: bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, mortgage documents, credit card statements, automobile titles – literally everything.

computer

If your partner is self-employed, gather as much information as you can about the business and its finances. Make hard copies of any important documents that are filed on the home computer. Make several copies of everything and store those copies securely – and away from your home.

STEP TWO: PROTECT YOURSELF FINANCIALLY

When a divorce becomes an inevitability, you must take steps to protect your finances, to open up new accounts solely in your name, and to establish your own credit. Before the divorce process begins, you should take the three steps listed here to protect yourself financially:

If you have a joint bank account, withdraw half the balance and create a new personal account at another bank. Inform your spouse in writing about the withdrawals, copy the letter before sending it, and store the copy with your other important documents.

couple fighting over money

Cancel any jointly-owned credit cards, and do not tell your partner beforehand. If you do, a vindictive or irresponsible partner might create new debts that could become your obligation. After you’ve cancelled the credit cards, then tell your partner.

Stop making contributions to any IRAs and 401(k) plans. If necessary, ask your employer how to stop your contributions. Your partner may be entitled to some of these funds, so you cannot allow a retirement account or a pension fund to keep growing.

To buy a home, obtain a loan, or open a credit card account, you’ll have to present proof of your identity and your financial condition. Be certain that you’re going to have access to all of the documents and information that you might need to restart your life as an unmarried person.

STEP THREE: PUT THE KIDS FIRST

Everyone knows that the people most negatively affected by a divorce are the children. Take the time and effort to ensure that children are acclimating and adjusting to the divorce.

making child comfortable

By adhering to the three principles listed below, parents can help children through this difficult period:

Parents must leave the kids out of whatever problems the parents may have with one another. If you need to complain to someone about a spouse or about an ex-spouse, speak with a friend or a counselor, and see to it that the kids don’t overhear you.

Children need space and time alone to deal with their feelings about divorce, so don’t overcompensate and “smother” a child emotionally during the divorce process. Kids shouldn’t have their feelings “bottled up,” even by a parent with good intentions.

A child’s behavior can sometimes indicate an emerging problem. Give a child space, but monitor your child so that the right steps can be taken if they’re needed. Help and advice are abundantly available through both the public and private sector for divorcing parents.

STEP FOUR: DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION WITH A GOOD DIVORCE ATTORNEY

If you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce in Indiana, before you make any final decisions or take any irrevocable actions, you must be advised – as early as possible – by an experienced Lake County divorce attorney. You’ll need to work with a divorce lawyer who can ensure that:

  • You are treated justly and fairly in a divorce proceeding.
  • The division of property and assets in your divorce is fair and accurate.
  • The best interests of your children are safeguarded.
  • Every attempt has been made to reach agreements with your spouse before going to trial.

IN WHAT OTHER WAYS WILL A SKILLED DIVORCE LAWYER HELP YOU?

A divorce should not conclude with you losing your home or kids or declaring bankruptcy. Your divorce lawyer will protect your interests, will make sure that you’re treated fairly, and will see to it that your divorce settlement lets you move forward constructively and positively.

A divorce is an extremely emotional experience for almost everyone, but a good divorce lawyer is a detached third party who can remain objective while working for the best possible resolution of the issues in dispute.

You will also need an attorney to help you work through the avalanche of paperwork that every Indiana divorce entails. If you have kids, real estate, or a business, if you are in debt, or if you have a pension plan or retirement account, a mistake in the legal paperwork could be disastrous.

WHAT OTHER MEASURES SHOULD YOU CONSIDER?

Here are some additional steps that you should consider taking before the divorce process begins:

If you want to emerge from your divorce proceeding with a positive outlook, you must have the support of others. If that support isn’t available from friends or family members, it’s not difficult to find a support group in your area.

If you are divorcing because of domestic violence, find a way to remove yourself from the circumstances at once. Find a safe place, and speak with your divorce attorney about your options.

posting on social media

Anything you say – and any picture you post – on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site could be used against you by your spouse’s attorney. Most divorce lawyers would tell you to avoid using social media entirely until your divorce has been finalized.

If you are divorcing, considering divorce, or expecting to be served divorce papers, have a Lake County divorce attorney review your situation, answer your questions, and address your concerns – before the legal process begins. A good divorce lawyer’s help is imperative, and it’s your right.

Served With Divorce Papers – How Can An Attorney Help?

What happens in the state of Indiana when you are served with divorce papers? What steps should you take first? What are your legal rights and options? Where can you turn for help? Can a Lake County divorce lawyer help?

WHAT COMES FIRST WHEN YOU ARE SERVED DIVORCE PAPERS?

The first thing that you must do when you receive divorce papers is to maintain your emotional composure. Divorce is always stressful, but catch your breath and talk with your trusted friends. Sending out angry texts or emails will not help you.

emotional composure

A Petition for Dissolution is simply the start of the Indiana divorce process. It does not mean that a divorce has to be acrimonious or that you and your spouse can’t find common ground and avoid a contentious courtroom trial.

Do not let the language in a divorce petition upset you. It is standard legal language that will have virtually no bearing on the actual final outcome of your divorce.

SHOULD YOU RESPOND TO A PETITION FOR DISSOLUTION?

Unlike most other states, Indiana does not require you to answer a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, but you will need to file a counter-petition if you are requesting spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, or legal fees.

The state of Indiana has established a sixty-day wait period after divorce papers are filed before a divorce may be finalized, but if there are any disputes over the division of property and assets, spousal maintenance, or child custody or support, a divorce will take longer.

Whether or not you file a counter-petition, you will need an attorney’s help as soon as you are served divorce papers. Don’t even think about going through a divorce without a good lawyer’s help. You could lose assets, alimony, or even the custody of your child or children.

HOW WILL A GOOD DIVORCE LAWYER HELP YOU?

You’ll need a lawyer with substantial family law experience, someone who gives you confidence and puts you (as far as possible) at ease. You will need a qualified Lake County divorce attorney who will make certain that you are treated fairly at every stage of the divorce process.

attorney fees after divorce

If you believe that you cannot afford a good attorney, speak with one anyway. In some cases, a court can order your ex to pay your legal fees as part of your divorce settlement. A court will consider these factors to decide if your legal fees should be paid by the spouse you’re divorcing:

1. each partner’s income and assets
2. the employment and employability of the partners
3. the general economic standing of each partner

SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS?

After you are handed divorce papers, do not post anything about your divorce on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else on the internet. Anything that you post online – comments, photos, or videos – could be used against you in a divorce proceeding.

You need to know that nothing that you post to Twitter or Facebook is ever really, absolutely private. In an Indiana divorce, your spouse’s lawyer might be able to obtain even your deleted posts and “tweets” – and to use them against you.

If you are seeking custody of your child or children, online photos that show you drinking or partying will not help you. In fact, many Indiana divorce lawyers suggest that divorcing spouses should entirely refrain from using social media once the Petition for Dissolution is in your hands.

Social media, of course, can work both ways in a divorce. The person you are divorcing may have left evidence on Facebook or Twitter that your own attorney may be able to use to your advantage.

WHAT IF YOU MUST CONTACT YOUR SPOUSE WHILE A DIVORCE IS PENDING?

If you must contact your spouse for any reason while your divorce is pending, you must see to it that any emails, texts, or voicemails are “civil” and to the point.

After you are served divorce papers, it is wise to presume that anything you record or put in writing will be seen or heard by your spouse’s attorney and by a judge – and used against you.

served divorce papers

If, for any reason, you must meet with your spouse face-to-face after you have received divorce papers, take a trustworthy witness with you. Keeping your relationship civil can help you reach agreements more quickly during the divorce process, and that saves both of you time and money.

WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?

If you are a parent who is divorcing, it is important to keep the kids out of it as far as possible.

Everyone knows that divorce is extremely difficult for children, so you must not allow yourself to use them as pawns, and you must not talk negatively about the other parent in front of them. If the court finds that you are disparaging the other parent, it will not help you in a custody dispute.

Indiana divorce court judges want to see that divorcing parents are cooperating and putting the children’s needs first. Overlooking your children and their needs is a mistake that you must avoid after you have been served with divorce papers.

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR FILING DIVORCE PAPERS?

To file for a divorce in Indiana, one spouse must be a resident of the state (or assigned to a military installation here) for six months (and a resident of the county where the petition is filed for three months) immediately preceding the filing of the Petition for Dissolution.

A Petition for Dissolution must be filed in the Domestic Relations Court in the Indiana county where the party is a resident. Let your divorce attorney help. A woman who wants to restore her maiden name must express that desire in her petition or counter-petition.

spousal support in court

If you will need to receive spousal maintenance (alimony) payments or child support payments, you must specifically request it from the court. A skilled divorce law firm will fight aggressively for the spousal maintenance or child support payments you may need.

If you are getting a divorce in Indiana, you must have the insights, guidance, and services of an experienced Indiana divorce lawyer. That is your right, and your future could depend on it.

Can A Divorce Cause Bankruptcy?

For probably far too many married couples, bankruptcy and divorce are inextricably linked. As everyone knows, financial difficulties are a leading reason for divorce.

There is no way around it. A divorce is going to be costly. After dividing the marital assets in half, in many cases, both ex-spouses may find themselves in a difficult financial position.

You are about to learn what is involved with the division of marital assets in an Indiana divorce, and you’ll also learn why bankruptcy is an option that is so frequently chosen by divorcing spouses in this state and how a divorce attorney in Indiana can help.

IS A DIVORCE THE ANSWER TO YOUR FINANCIAL PROBLEMS?

As noted previously, money is probably the leading cause of stress in a marriage. In many marriages, each partner eventually comes to believe that the money problems are the other partner’s fault.

Many married couples in Indiana slip unintentionally and incrementally into debt. If several missed car payments or mortgage payments combine with a serious illness or injury, almost any couple could find themselves rapidly drowning in debt.

Sometimes a divorce really is the best solution to the financial difficulties in a marriage, but sometimes the marriage itself is not the real problem – it’s the spending.

You can divorce the person you married, but what you cannot escape from in the state of Indiana are your joint marital debts.

When you consider divorce, you must consider that in Indiana and every other state, both partners are liable for any debts that are incurred while they are married. And here’s something else that you need to know before you proceed with a divorce.

WHAT RIGHTS DO YOUR EX-SPOUSE’S CREDITORS HAVE?

Although a divorce settlement will essentially split the marital debts and make each ex-spouse responsible for roughly fifty percent, that settlement is not binding on creditors.

In other words, if your ex does not pay his or her part of a marital debt, you can expect a creditor to “come after” you without regard to how the court settled your divorce.

In fact, if your ex declares bankruptcy subsequent to your divorce, you will be the only person that a creditor can – and will – pursue for that debt.

So if your finances are tight in the first months after a divorce, an ex-partner’s bankruptcy might be the final straw. At that point, you might have to declare bankruptcy, too.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A JOINT, PRE-DIVORCE BANKRUPTCY?

That’s why both partners might actually want to consider declaring bankruptcy prior to filing for divorce. It may, in fact, be a better option for both of you, and here’s why:

1. You will both know where you really stand financially.
2. You will both know what to expect from the division of assets during your divorce.
3. You will both be able to start planning your futures – realistically.

In many cases – certainly not all – the bankruptcy should come first.

If your money troubles can be resolved through bankruptcy, it’s possible that the marriage might survive. And even if it doesn’t save the marriage, there are a number of reasons to consider a joint declaration of bankruptcy before divorcing.

CAN A JOINT, PRE-DIVORCE BANKRUPTCY SAVE YOU MONEY?

Another consideration is that a joint bankruptcy filing is substantially less expensive than paying for two separate bankruptcies. A pre-divorce joint declaration of bankruptcy also reduces the cost of a divorce because it simplifies the division of marital assets, properties, and debts.

Of course, if the relationship with your spouse is so damaged that you cannot communicate with one another, this option probably is not open to you.

If you are filing for bankruptcy either jointly or individually and immediately before or during your divorce, discuss the matter first with your divorce attorney, and then keep your attorney abreast of your decisions.

The bottom line is that no one wants to be harassed by bill collectors over an ex-spouse’s debts.

HOW CAN A GOOD DIVORCE LAWYER HELP YOU?

Here in Indiana, if you believe that your ex will file for bankruptcy and leave you to the mercy of the creditors, discuss bankruptcy – and any other aspect of your divorce – with a skilled divorce lawyer, and have that discussion as early as possible in the divorce process.

There is no one-rule-fits-all answer when deciding whether to file for a bankruptcy first or a divorce first. Everyone’s situation is personal and unique, so you must have the personalized advice of an attorney.

Your attorney will explain your options and may offer some helpful suggestions. In some cases, your attorney may recommend that you acquire a lien on part of your ex-spouse’s property – just to make sure that you will be treated fairly.

AFTER A BANKRUPTCY, WHAT OBLIGATIONS STILL MUST BE PAID?

Everyone who is divorcing in Indiana should understand that bankruptcy cannot get either spouse out of the obligation to make court-ordered child support or spousal support payments. Court-ordered obligations are not “dischargeable” debts in a bankruptcy.

After a divorce, you can ask an Indiana court to change or “modify” custody and support orders in specific circumstances, but no spouse may simply ignore a court order.

When a court has to take action to enforce a court order, the consequences can be harsh – and could even include jail time for contempt of court – but if you need a custody or support order enforced – or modified – discuss the matter with your divorce attorney.

WHAT SHOULD BE YOUR GOAL IN A DIVORCE OR A BANKRUPTCY?

There really is life after bankruptcy, and there really is life after divorce. Both bankruptcy and divorce are designed to give you a fresh start and a way to move positively and constructively into the future.

If you are divorcing, considering a divorce, or even if you are anticipating that your spouse is going to file for divorce, you should speak at once with an experienced Lake County divorce attorney to discuss all of your rights, options, and alternatives.

Divorce is never easy. The financial details of every divorce are complicated and often in dispute. If children are involved, divorce is even tougher. An acrimonious divorce trial can drag on for months.

That’s why you must have a qualified and committed divorce attorney advising you and advocating on your behalf. If a divorce is in your future, get the advice you need – and get it now.

Taxes & Divorce In Indiana

If you divorce in the state of Indiana, dealing with your ex will not be your only concern. You also have to deal with the IRS. Keep reading, and find out how your divorce affects your taxes and how a Merrillville divorce law firm may be able to help.

Assets are transferred in almost every divorce, and that transfer impacts your federal taxes.

This is a brief look at how divorce affects your taxes, but if you have specific questions about your own divorce and taxes, you’ll need reliable, personalized legal advice.

WHO CAN HELP YOU AVOID TAX TROUBLE DURING AND AFTER A DIVORCE?

That’s why, in an Indiana divorce, you must have advice and representation from an experienced Lake County divorce attorney – someone who has answers to questions about taxes and divorce.

While the impact of a divorce on your income taxes may be slight or substantial, the insights and advice that a knowledgeable divorce attorney can provide will help you steer clear of tax trouble.

If your divorce was finalized on or after January 1st, you may still submit a joint return if, all of last year, you were legally married – and if your ex agrees to file jointly.

WHAT’S THE UP SIDE OF FILING A JOINT RETURN WITH YOUR EX?

A joint return almost always lets you pay less to the Internal Revenue Service.

But before you file your federal income tax return, speak with your financial advisor and your divorce attorney regarding the pros and cons of submitting a joint return.

When ex-spouses file taxes jointly for the previous tax year, each becomes liable for the taxes as well as any interest, penalties, and deficiencies.

You may need a tax indemnification agreement if you submit a joint return with your ex.

WHAT DOES A TAX INDEMNIFICATION AGREEMENT DO?

A tax indemnification agreement makes one ex-spouse liable for deficiencies, penalties, and interest due on joint returns filed previously, and the agreement shields the other ex-spouse.

If you file jointly, and if you do not have a tax indemnification agreement, you could be deemed liable for any underpayment.

That’s why it is imperative to have your divorce attorney make certain that your final agreement decree explains exactly how you and your ex-spouse will handle any tax refund or tax liability.

WHAT DETERMINES YOUR FILING STATUS AFTER A DIVORCE?

Your filing status is determined, at least partially, by whether you were still married or already legally divorced on the final day of the tax year.

If your final divorce decree was issued at any time during the previous tax year – even December 31st – you’ll file your tax return as if you were not married at all during that year.

When that is the case, your filing status should be “head of household” or “single.” You must satisfy these requirements to file as “head of household”:

1. On the last day of the year, you were not married.
2. You paid more than half of the household’s expenses during the year.
3. A “qualifying person” lived in the home with you for more than half of the year.
4. You are eligible to take an exemption for your child.

A custodial parent may transfer the exemption for the child to the non-custodial parent.

In this case, the custodial parent will sign a written statement that he or she is not claiming the child as a dependent, and the non-custodial parent includes that statement with his or her return.

If a final decree in your divorce was not issued at any time in the previous tax year, and you are filing as head of household, your ex must file under “married filing separately” status.

IF YOUR DIVORCE WAS FINAL IN 2017, WHAT TAX ISSUES DO YOU FACE NOW?

If your divorce became final during the last tax year, a number of questions emerge, such as:

How do you handle mortgage interest and property taxes you paid on a jointly-owned home? What do you do with interest derived from a joint savings account?

All income and expenses in a marriage are considered equally earned or paid if you reside in a “community property” state, but Indiana is an “equitable distribution” state.

Even so, each ex-spouse is normally taxed for one-half of any income generated by any assets or properties up to the time that asset or property is transferred solely to one ex-spouse or the other.

WHAT IS THE IRS RULE REGARDING SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?

There is no “alimony” in an Indiana divorce, but in very narrow circumstances, you may be ordered to pay or permitted to receive “spousal maintenance” by an Indiana court.

In this state, if you expect to make spousal maintenance payments, or if you believe you will receive those payments, you must know how spousal maintenance will affect your taxes.

Current law lets an ex-spouse deduct spousal maintenance payments, and the ex who receives spousal maintenance must consider it income and pay taxes on it.

While that remains the rule in 2018 (for tax year 2017), beginning in 2019 (for tax year 2018), the new spousal maintenance rule will be the mirror opposite of the current rule.

Starting in 2019, when you submit a return, the ex who makes spousal support payments won’t be allowed to deduct them, and the ex-spouse receiving spousal support will not be taxed for it.

WHAT IS THE IRS RULE REGARDING CHILD SUPPORT?

Child support does not constitute income, so custodial parents are not taxed for the child support they receive.

If you want to avoid tax troubles arising from a divorce, knowing what is at stake is imperative. What is provided here is merely an introductory look at the effect a divorce will have on your taxes.

As you would imagine, more affluent couples with more assets and properties will usually find it more difficult to resolve divorce-related financial disputes.

And even when nothing is disputed, resolving the tax issues arising from a divorce is also usually more difficult for couples with considerable properties and assets.

AT WHAT POINT SHOULD YOU SPEAK WITH A DIVORCE LAWYER?

But taxes and tax questions should not prevent you from divorcing or from obtaining the fair and just divorce agreement that you deserve.

Here in Indiana, let an experienced Lake County divorce attorney answer your financial and legal questions and guide you through the divorce process – from the very beginning.

If you divorce, you must have reliable, reputable legal counsel. You’ll want an advocate who aggressively represents your rights and interests.

The rest of your life will depend on how your divorce is handled and settled, so you must have trustworthy, experienced legal help from the beginning of an Indiana divorce. That is your right.

What Happens When Older Couples Divorce?

It’s a startling trend – a sharp jump in the number of “gray” divorces, that is, divorces among couples age 50 and older. Could your own marriage be in trouble?

Could your savings and retirement accounts be at risk? If you are involved in a “gray” divorce, what should you know, and what must you do?

It is not easy to divorce a partner of thirty or more years, but if that is your decision – or your spouse’s decision – before you take any action, consult a skilled Lake County divorce attorney.

You will get honest and sound legal advice specific to your own circumstances.

A good divorce lawyer will explain all of your options and protect your rights and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Gray divorces are different in several ways. When younger couples divorce, they still have one or two decades to pursue a career and build retirement funds.

But when couples who divorce are in their 50s and 60s, their careers are winding down – or they’re over – and some people at that age are already living on Social Security payments and/or the retirement benefits they earned when they were younger.

WHAT ELSE MAKES “GRAY” DIVORCE SO CHALLENGING?

The financial aspects of a divorce can present considerable challenges for divorcing couples who are at or near retirement age.

A Lake County divorce attorney will consider a client’s retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, and health insurance costs, and will fight aggressively to protect that client’s rights, assets, and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Another difference between gray divorces and younger divorces is the role of the children. Child custody and child support, of course, are rarely part of a gray divorce.

Instead, adult children sometimes try to place themselves in the middle of a divorce proceeding and demand “a say” in how the divorce is settled.

If there is any suspicion that an adult child is manipulating a parent for personal gain in a divorce, competency may become an issue for the court.

It’s smart if you try not to lean on your adult children during a divorce. A friend closer to your own age – with no direct emotional or financial stake in your divorce – can listen to you with more understanding and objectivity.

WHAT HAPPENS TO RETIREMENT FUNDS IN A DIVORCE?

Every divorce divides the assets and property that a couple has acquired during the marriage.

Homes, other real estate holdings, vehicles, family businesses, and all varieties of personal property are divided in the divorce procedure, but some of the largest assets a couple may have after a lengthy marriage are retirement funds and benefits that one or both partners have built up throughout the marriage.

In most Indiana divorces, pensions and retirement accounts are evenly divided, but the full value of a retirement plan or a pension is not always marital property – and thus is not always subject to division.

Only the retirement funds acquired during the marriage are subject to division. An Indiana divorce lawyer can see to it that the retirement funds that are rightfully yours are protected and remain yours in a divorce.

Even if you and your spouse carefully planned for the future while you were married, after a divorce, it is usually best to create a new estate plan “from scratch.”

You will need to make some adjustments if you no longer want your ex to be named in your will or named as a beneficiary of any accounts or insurance policies.

You should also update any and all medical care and trust documents appropriately.

WHAT ABOUT THE NON-LEGAL SIDE OF DIVORCE – THE EMOTIONAL SIDE?

If you’re over fifty, and you are divorcing, your attorney will handle the legal and financial side of the divorce, but you also must consider the emotional side.

Here too, a gray divorce differs from a younger divorce.

These are some recommendations that have helped others through the transition in their 50s and 60s:

Stand up for yourself. Your finances and your plans for the future are your business and no one else’s, so do not cave in to pressure or intimidation from your ex, or even from your children.

Make new friends. Join clubs and organizations. Volunteer. Take the time to enjoy some recreational pursuits.

Why not start dating again? Even if there’s no “chemistry,” you’re still making friends, and you’re old enough to know that you can never have too many of those.

Forgive yourself. We have all made mistakes earlier in our lives, but what matters is moving forward in a positive and constructive way.

According to researchers at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for those age fifty and above doubled in the United States from 1990 to 2010.

The “gray” divorce rate right now is about fifteen percent.

In a world that views marriage quite differently from the way the world viewed it fifty years ago, some people in their 50s and 60s now want to explore more of life and the world and more of their own interests.

HOW CAN A DIVORCE LAWYER HELP WITH YOUR GRAY DIVORCE?

If you are divorcing at any age, understanding what to expect can eliminate confusion and allow you to concentrate on the issues. Before you enter a courtroom, be prepared.

Have your attorney answer all of your questions. Read as much of the paperwork associated with the case as you can. You’ll have more confidence, and you’ll be able to give your divorce attorney more help as the case proceeds.

Telling the truth is imperative. Any exaggeration, misrepresentation, or deception will damage your case and your credibility in the courtroom.

Prior to an Indiana divorce proceeding, the partners must complete a number of documents verifying their assets, incomes, properties, and expenses.

Even if it’s painful, you must fill out these forms accurately and honestly. Your divorce lawyer will help.

Of course, every divorce is difficult, and like so much in life, when you’re older, it’s a little more difficult.

If you are over fifty and you are divorcing in Indiana, you must have the advice and services of an experienced Lake County divorce attorney – someone who will fight vigorously on your behalf while guiding you through the divorce process.

Spousal Maintenance In Indiana

In any divorce proceeding, the most likely matters of dispute between the divorcing spouses will be child custody and child support (if the divorcing spouses are parents), the division of joint marital property and assets, and the question of alimony payments.

Spousal maintenance – commonly called “alimony” – may be awarded in an Indiana divorce, but only in the narrowest kinds of circumstances.

In fact, strictly legally speaking, there is no “alimony” in the state of Indiana, but in specific divorces and in particular situations, one ex-spouse may be ordered by an Indiana court to make spousal maintenance payments to the other ex.

What kinds of divorce cases and narrow circumstances can generate a spousal maintenance order from an Indiana court? There’s no single answer to that question.

Every divorce is different and every couple’s circumstances are different.

If you are divorcing in this state, our experienced Lake County family law attorneys can review your case and determine if a request for spousal maintenance might be a consideration in your divorce proceeding.

IN WHAT SITUATIONS MAY SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE BE GRANTED?

An Indiana divorce attorney can advocate aggressively on your behalf for – or against – a request for spousal maintenance payments.

Your attorney can protect you from receiving too little in spousal maintenance or from paying too much.

Generally speaking, in the state of Indiana, spousal maintenance payments will only be ordered by the court in a divorce proceeding:

If an ex-spouse is partially or wholly unable to support himself or herself because of a mental or physical incapacity, the other ex may be ordered to make spousal maintenance payments “indefinitely,” that is, for the duration of the condition of incapacity.

If an ex-spouse must remain unemployed because he or she has legal custody of a child who requires full-time care due to a physical or mental incapacity, a judge may compel the other ex to pay spousal maintenance until those circumstances change.

If one ex-spouse lacks temporarily the ability, capacity, or resources to support himself or herself adequately, the other ex may be ordered by the court to pay “rehabilitative maintenance” for as long as three years.

Under Indiana law, rehabilitative maintenance payments are limited to a maximum duration of three years, but in the other two types of cases, payments are to be made until additional action is taken by the court.

Indiana courts look at a number of factors when a spousal maintenance request is under consideration: the spouses’ educations, work experiences and skills,

Indiana courts look at a number of factors when a spousal maintenance request is under consideration: the spouses’ educations, work experiences and skills, earning abilities, and the amount of time each spouse was employed – or not employed while raising children.

The projected cost of an ex-spouse’s vocational training or other vocational or educational needs may also be a consideration for the court.

HOW ARE SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE PAYMENT AMOUNTS DETERMINED?

Indiana divorce law establishes no precise guidelines or formulas regarding an appropriate figure for spousal maintenance payments.

While some states are now relying on complicated formulas and even customized computer software to determine appropriate alimony or maintenance payment amounts, lawmakers in our own state have given the courts – meaning the judges – a great deal of latitude in handling spousal maintenance requests.

Indiana judges must bring their own discretion and personal experience to every maintenance request determination.

Divorce is always difficult. In Gary, Hammond, and anywhere else in or near Lake County, before you make a final choice for divorce – or before you take any other legal action regarding your marriage, your family, or your children – arrange to have a frank discussion regarding your rights, options, and expectations with a skilled Lake County divorce attorney.

You will particularly need an attorney’s advice and services if you are:

– requesting a spousal maintenance order
– disputing a request for spousal maintenance
– requesting a modification to a current spousal maintenance order
– disputing a request for a modification to a current spousal maintenance order

A spousal maintenance order issued at the time of a divorce is never the final word on the matter.

When the conditions and circumstances inevitably change in your own life or your ex-spouse’s life, the court may hear a request by either ex-spouse to amend the order for spousal maintenance.

The other ex-spouse may challenge that request or may file his or her own request for a different modification of the maintenance order.

In either case, it’s imperative to have a trustworthy Lake County divorce attorney – a family law lawyer you trust – advocating on your behalf.

If divorcing spouses can agree regarding a spousal maintenance arrangement, they can save both time and money, but divorcing spouses must understand that Indiana courts will strictly enforce the terms of even a voluntary agreement.

Regarding a voluntary spousal maintenance agreement, Indiana courts will assume that both sides came to the agreement freely and that both sides fully understand the agreement’s terms and conditions.

In some Indiana divorces, a prenuptial or postnuptial contract may dictate the terms of a spousal maintenance arrangement.

WHAT ARE THE COURT’S PRIORITIES IN THESE CASES?

A “lump sum” spousal maintenance payment is one option that should almost always be considered by both parties.

However, the voluntary nature of a spousal maintenance agreement does not prohibit either ex-spouse from requesting a modification order from the court.

Indiana courts maintain two priorities when considering a spousal maintenance request or a maintenance modification request.

The overriding priority for the court – when divorcing or divorced spouses are parents – is the best interests of the child or children.

Secondly, the courts try to ensure that both divorcing spouses are treated fairly.

However, that fair treatment doesn’t always happen in every divorce proceeding, and that’s why anyone who is seeking or anticipating a divorce in this state will require high-quality legal counsel.

For many who are divorcing, anxieties about children, finances, and the future may be nearly overwhelming. Having the right attorney handle your divorce may relieve some of that apprehension.

Divorce, maintenance, and custody laws are particularly complex in this state, and almost every divorce has its own unique complications.

Thus, whether you’re anxious about a divorce or confident and expectant, you’ll need an experienced Indiana divorce lawyer on your side, someone who handles divorces routinely, a skilled legal advocate who will protect your rights and your long-term interests while bringing your divorce to its best possible resolution.

The Differences Between Legal Separation Vs. Divorce In Indiana

Before ending a marriage in Indiana, couples may want to look at the option of legal separation. Divorce and legal separation are two distinct legal alternatives for spouses in Indiana who want to end their marriages. The two procedures accomplish two different and separate goals, but you will need a divorce law firm to help with either. A divorce legally dissolves a marriage. A legal separation lets spouses live separately while deciding to work on the marriage or to dissolve it. Couples who legally separate remain married, but couples who divorce do not, and they are for all intents and purposes “single” once again.

In the state of Indiana, divorce and legal separation have important similarities, but they also have important differences. While a legal separation is not a legal divorce, for many married couples in Indiana, it is an important practical alternative. Indiana law prohibits a legal separation from lasting for more than a year, although a legally separated spouse does not have to wait a for a year to file a divorce petition.

After a year, a legally separated couple must either file for a divorce or declare that they will remain married. The courts in Indiana will sign off on a legal separation if a judge determines that the couple cannot currently live together but that eventually they may be able to reconcile. And before any divorce in Indiana can be finalized, a judge must determine that the marriage has suffered an “irretrievable” breakdown.

WHAT CAN A LEGAL SEPARATION ACHIEVE?

Legal separation gives a married couple the opportunity to “cool off” before either partner makes a final decision to divorce. No-fault divorce is the law in this state, so a spouse does not have to prove that the other spouse did anything wrong in order to be granted a divorce. A legal separation is not required prior to an Indiana divorce, although a legal separation may provide the divorce court with the evidence it needs of a marriage’s “irretrievable breakdown.”

During a legal separation, a judge may issue temporary orders for child support and custody, spousal support (or “alimony”), and counseling. Also in a legal separation, one spouse can still be a beneficiary of the other’s life insurance. A legally separated spouse may or may not be able to benefit from the other spouse’s health insurance, so before filing for separation, check your health plan; some plans cover legally separated spouses and others do not. After a divorce, however, the parties go their separate ways. For example, a spouse cannot be held accountable for the other spouse’s personal debts after a divorce is finalized.

WHAT IF YOUR FAITH FORBIDS DIVORCE?

In the state of Indiana, a legally separated couple is still a legally married couple. Some couples may choose legal separation instead of divorce in order to satisfy a religious belief. When a faith community forbids divorce, legal separation allows a couple to maintain their religious beliefs while nevertheless, in effect, ending the relationship. Others treat legal separation as the equivalent of a trial divorce – to try living apart to “see how it goes” before choosing to end the marriage permanently.

When the marriage partners agree that a divorce is in fact the goal of their legal separation, it’s the right time to start the daunting task of evaluating and dividing marital property and assets. These issues should be resolved as early as possible, and especially if substantial assets and a number of properties are involved. A legal separation agreement, correctly drafted, settles any spousal support or child support disputes prior to a divorce; resolves tax issues, debts, and other financial matters; and addresses access to credit cards, bank accounts, lines of credit, and equities.

While a legal separation in the state of Indiana is not a formal divorce, is not an annulment either. It is a legal agreement between marriage partners to live separately, although simply living apart does not by itself establish a “legal” separation. A couple must file for formal legal separation status to obtain the benefits of legal separation. In northwest Indiana, obtain the legal help you’ll need from an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

CAN A JUDGE ORDER COUNSELING DURING A LEGAL SEPARATION?

During the period of legal separation, the court may compel the separated spouses to seek counseling for themselves or for their child or children if either party makes a motion for counseling in an effort to improve the marriage; if either spouse, one of the children, or a court-appointed special counsel makes a motion for counseling for the child; or the court may order counseling if a judge believes that counseling will be helpful. The court may not require “joint” counseling of the spouses unless both consent or if there is evidence that one spouse has demonstrated a pattern of domestic violence.

A divorce in Indiana is legally called a “dissolution of marriage.” To file for either a divorce or a legal separation, a least one partner must be a resident of Indiana or stationed at a U.S. military installation in the state of Indiana for at least six months immediately preceding the filing. At the time of filing, at least one party must be a resident of the county or stationed at a U.S. military installation within the county where the petition is filed for at least three months immediately preceding the filing.

Before you arrive at any final decision about ending your marriage, it can’t hurt to seek some advice. If you have a best friend whom you discuss such things with, talk to that person. If you’re a member of a faith community, it probably provides counseling that’s right for you. Plenty of counseling resources are available in the Lake County area in both the public and private sectors.

Legal separation is never final; eventually, a married couple either reunites or moves toward divorce, but a legal separation in Indiana offers you and your spouse some breathing space and some time to assess your marital situation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about fourteen percent of the married couples who file for legal separation eventually resolve their differences and remain in the marriage. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney can explain more about the legal separation process.

The Rights of Divorced Spouses in The Military

Divorce is usually heartbreaking, stressful, and emotionally exhausting. It’s never easy, and if one or both of the divorcing partners is serving in the armed forces, a divorce can quickly become even more convoluted and difficult. However, if you are serving our nation and you are simultaneously divorcing, by working with a Merrillville divorce law firm and understanding how the divorce process works and by identifying the specific issues that a member of the armed services will face in a divorce, you can reduce the emotional burden on yourself and perhaps save some time and money as well.

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When one or both spouses is serving in the military, and one or both decide to divorce, they will move through more or less the same processes and procedures as a divorcing civilian couple. However, service in the military sometimes raises additional complications which might involve the custody and care of children, determining child support and spousal support amounts, and determining if anyone is entitled to any military-related post-divorce benefits. Divorce is primarily a matter of state law, so in Indiana, it’s best to have the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney.

HOW DOES THE MILITARY VIEW DIVORCE?

Generally, the armed services view divorce as a private concern for the civilian courts. In a divorce, a service member and spouse will need separate attorneys to ensure that both spouses obtain independent, frank, and confidential legal advice and to avoid any conflict of interest. Anyone serving in the military can and should access the free legal advice that the military offers, but you’ll need a civilian lawyer to draft divorce papers and to represent you in court. Look for a civilian attorney who has previously represented members of the military in divorce proceedings.

WHAT IS THE SERVICE MEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT?

The Service members Civil Relief Act of 1940 (the “SCRA”) is a federal law that protects anyone in the military from being sued while in active military service and for up to a year after active duty. Regarding divorce, the SCRA lets service members obtain a “stay” or a postponement of a civil court proceeding if a service member can show that military service – such as an upcoming deployment – will prevent that service member from asserting or protecting his or her legal rights.

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The granting of a stay under the SCRA is not automatic. Based on the reasons offered by a member of the military, a military judge will decide if military service materially affects a service member’s ability to take or defend an action in court. However, the court must grant a stay of at least ninety days if the service member submits a written communication to the court showing how military requirements materially affect the individual’s ability to appear, the date when the service member will be available to appear, and a confirmation from the individual’s commanding officer stating that duty prevents appearance and leave is not authorized.

WHAT IS THE UNIFORMED SERVICES FORMER SPOUSE PROTECTION ACT?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act of 1982 (the “USFSPA”) is a federal statute that provides benefits to former spouses of military members. The USFSPA does not automatically give a former spouse any of the member’s retirement pay. Instead, it lets the states treat disposable military retirement pay as marital property that is divisible in a divorce proceeding. Disposable military retirement pay is a service member’s monthly retirement pay minus deductions. The USFSPA allows a civilian divorce court to treat military retired pay just as it would treat a civilian pension plan.

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Whether a spouse who is divorced from a member of the armed forces is entitled to commissary, exchange, or medical benefits hinges on the length of the marriage, the length of time the spouse served, and the number of years the marriage overlapped with the military service. To retain full military benefits and privileges upon divorce from a service member, you must meet the requirements of what is known as the “20/20/20 Rule.”

To continue receiving benefits, the divorced spouse of a service member must show that the service member served at least twenty years, that the marriage lasted at least twenty years, and that the period of overlap was at least twenty years. A former spouse who satisfies these criteria is known as a “20/20/20 former spouse” and is entitled to full commissary, exchange, and health care benefits including TRICARE, in-patient, and out-patient care at a military facility.

Former spouses who fail to satisfy these requirements lose commissary privileges and other benefits when the divorce becomes final, with one exception. If a former spouse does not qualify under the 20/20/20 rule, he or she may still qualify for one year of transitional military benefits for medical care only. The 20/20/15 rule requires that the marriage and the military service overlapped for only fifteen years rather than twenty.

WHAT ABOUT MILITARY HOUSING AND HEALTHCARE IN A DIVORCE?

If you do not qualify as a 20/20/20 former spouse nor as a 20/20/15 former spouse, you will not be eligible for military health benefits after your divorce or annulment is final. Nevertheless, you can acquire health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit Program, a premium-based short-term coverage program, for up to 36 months or until alternative coverage can be obtained.

Regarding your housing, if you are living on a base, the service member who is divorcing you does not have the power to evict you; only the installation’s commander can do that. By law, however, military family housing can only be occupied by service members who reside with their family members. Each branch of the service requires a family housing unit to be vacated – usually in thirty days – if no service member or family members are residing there. Thus, if you are going to separate from your military spouse and you are not in the military yourself, you must arrange to vacate military family housing.

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To receive alimony or child support, you must specifically request it from a civilian court. State courts can order child support payments as well as alimony payments. An experienced Indiana divorce attorney (or a family law attorney in your own state) can explain the state’s divorce laws, guide you through the divorce process, and make sure that your rights are protected and that your long-term interests are safeguarded in a divorce.

Infographic – To Divorce Now Or In January?

January is the month most commonly associated with new beginnings. But did you know, it is also a popular month for divorces? According to our divorce lawyers, it’s true. This infographic explores the reasons, advantages, and disadvantages for divorcing during the month of January. If you are considering or contemplating a divorce, always speak with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss your options.

To Divorce Now Or In January

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IS TAX SEASON ALSO DIVORCE SEASON?

For a large number of people who are married in the United States, the statistics tell us that tax season is also divorce season. At the end of the year – that is, during the holidays – it may not be the best time to announce an imminent divorce to one’s family members and friends, but the arrival of a new year and the promise of cash back from the IRS makes tax season the season when the largest number of married couples seek divorces. Even the Book of Ecclesiastes says that, “To everything there is a season,” and for family attorneys and divorce lawyers, that season runs from January through April 15. (April 18 is the actual tax deadline date for this year.) When a marriage simply cannot be fixed, the new year can be the right time to make a change. If you are considering or seeking a divorce, before you take any other action, speak right away with a good divorce lawyer, and in Lake County and adjacent jurisdictions, get the legal guidance you need and consult as soon as you can with our experienced Lake County divorce lawyers.

As a marital relationship slowly dissolves and disintegrates, and as divorce becomes an inevitability, usually at some point both spouses shift their focus away from rescuing the marriage to “looking out for number one” instead and coming out of the divorce in the best possible financial condition. Some partners at this time will start to hide assets in an effort to protect them from the division and distribution process in a divorce procedure. Marital property is typically a lot more than simply a home, two cars, and checking and savings accounts. It can include real estate holdings, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, and more. If you suspect that your spouse is or has been hiding property and assets, you’ll need to retain a divorce attorney who is skilled at uncovering hidden assets and who is experienced in the division and distribution of marital assets in a divorce procedure.

During this tax season – or at any time that you seek a divorce – you must understand and be ready for the financial consequences. If the financial side of your divorce is not handled correctly, you could face unexpected and serious financial difficulties for years to come. Retain an experienced divorce attorney before you take any other step toward divorce, and strictly adhere to that attorney’s advice. Do not be like the Tampa police officer whose own income tax refund, it seems, was not sufficient to retain a divorce lawyer. Officer Jeanette Hevel helped herself to some additional income tax refund checks – fraudulent checks that she took from the Tampa Police Department’s evidence locker and sold on the street for ten to twenty cents on the dollar to pay for her divorce. The now ex-Tampa police officer was sentenced by a federal judge in January to five years on probation. Ms. Hevel could have been sent to a federal prison for up to ten years.

Lake County divorce attorney

WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER BEFORE A DIVORCE?

Living on a drastically altered income after a divorce will require substantial consideration and planning. For some, the prospects might be difficult, but financial preparation is absolutely imperative if you want to avoid unanticipated money problems after a divorce. Do not be hesitant or embarrassed to ask for advice from your divorce lawyer about the financial choices you need to make as you move from being married to being a single person again. If it’s needed, your divorce lawyer can also refer you to experienced financial counselors and other helpful resources. Before you file for a divorce in Indiana or any other state, ready yourself for the financial impact of that divorce by taking these measures:

  • Thoroughly review your finances and credit.
  • Consult a good divorce attorney about what a divorce will cost.
  • Open new bank accounts in your own name.

The fees that you’ll pay for a divorce will depend on the state and the region where you live, the complexity of the issues in the divorce, and the amount of cooperation achieved between the divorcing spouses. Many family attorneys and divorce lawyers offer quite reasonable payment arrangements. In some cases, it’s possible that your attorney’s fees can actually be paid for or reimbursed by the other spouse as part of the divorce agreement or settlement.

Lake County divorce attorney

WHAT ULTIMATELY DETERMINES THE COST OF DIVORCE?

Of course, the ultimate cost of a divorce will hinge primarily on the particular legal services that a divorce attorney or family lawyer provides. A consultation alone will cost less than partial representation (handling only child custody, for instance, or only the division of property and assets), and partial representation will cost less than complete representation. In other words, the fewer issues that must be resolved between divorcing spouses, in a trial, the less a divorce will cost. If you and your divorcing partner can agree on all or any of these nine matters – the typical matters typically disputed in most divorce proceedings – you can both lower your legal costs. Those nine issues are:

  1. child custody
  2. child support
  3. child visitation
  4. the division of property and assets
  5. the division of debts
  6. spousal support (alimony)
  7. legal fees
  8. reimbursement claims
  9. breach of fiduciary duty claims

The issues in your own divorce will also determine which documents must be filed, but all spouses filing for divorce in Indiana are required to submit these three forms:

  1. a petition for dissolution of marriage
  2. a summons
  3. a financial declaration

If minor children are involved, in the state of Indiana you must also file a Child Support Obligation Worksheet. After the forms are filed, your spouse must be “served,” that is, notified that you have filed for divorce, and then your spouse must be given the chance to file an answer, a counterclaim, or both. Indiana law allows you to serve your spouse through a private process server, certified mail, or a sheriff’s service.

If your income tax refund this season is dedicated to funding your divorce, you might or might not have heard that a brief glitch in the IRS electronic filing system in February may briefly delay your tax refund this year. You also need to be aware that con artists are hard at work this year stealing tax refunds. CBS News quoted one New York tax lawyer who says, “The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry.” The IRS has taken a number of steps to spot false tax returns, but the IRS also strongly recommends that you never carry your Social Security card or number on you and that you keep secure any documents, other papers, or computer files that may include your Social Security number.

Lake County divorce attorney

DO YOU NEED “GROUNDS” FOR DIVORCE?

In the state of Indiana, divorce is referred to in the law as the “dissolution of marriage.” Indiana is generally a no-fault divorce state, although state law does allow for limited fault-based grounds for divorce. Most divorcing spouses, with exceptions of course, prefer the no-fault divorce because all you must state is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” If you choose to file a fault-based divorce complaint, Indiana allows only three grounds for divorce: impotence, insanity, and conviction for a felony. To file for divorce in this state, at least one spouse must have resided in Indiana for a minimum of six months and in the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months prior to filing.

As to property division, Indiana is an equitable distribution state, which means that a court will divide and distribute marital property and assets fairly or “equitably,” but not necessarily precisely in half. Both spouses have the right to dispute a court-ordered division and distribution of property and assets, but if the spouses can come to their own division and distribution agreement, an Indiana court will usually approve it. The court may also order alimony, otherwise known as spousal maintenance. The party making maintenance payments may ask for a modification of maintenance if and when there is a substantial change in either party’s circumstances that makes the continuation of an ongoing maintenance order unreasonable.

Parents in Indiana are obligated to pay for child support until their child is 21 years old, unless the child is emancipated, incapacitated, or is 18 years old, not attending school, and capable of supporting himself or herself. A child who is married, serving in the military, or who is no longer under the care or control of parents may be considered emancipated. However, if a child is incapacitated, child support continues through the duration of the incapacity or until the court decides otherwise.

For the detailed personal advice and dedicated legal representation that you will need when you divorce in Indiana, consult at once with an experienced Lake County divorce lawyer. Many choose to divorce during tax season, but the best time for you to file for a divorce is when you are genuinely and realistically ready both emotionally and financially. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney can help. In Gary, Lake County, and adjacent communities, if you are divorcing, don’t hesitate to make the call.

Is Tax Season Also Divorce Season?