If you and/or your spouse choose to obtain a divorce in Indiana, these are your options: You may negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement out-of-court, or you can take the matter to court and have a divorce settlement ordered and imposed by a judge.
What is the best way to negotiate a divorce settlement in Indiana? How can you make certain that you are treated fairly by the courts and that your rights and long-term interests are protected? Can Merrillville divorce lawyers help?
WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DIVORCE IN INDIANA?
Right up front, the first and most important thing to know about getting a divorce in this state is that you must have the advice, insights, and guidance of an experienced Lake County divorce attorney from the very beginning of the divorce process.
In fact, even before you file divorce papers – or as soon as you know that a divorce is inevitable – speak to a good divorce lawyer.
WHY IS AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE USUALLY PREFERABLE?
When it is possible, an uncontested divorce is almost always preferable to a contested divorce. Of course, divorcing spouses typically have plenty of disagreements – that’s why they divorce.
But when both partners can agree to their own terms and conditions for their divorce, and when they only have to ask the court to “sign off” on those terms and conditions, it is an uncontested divorce, which can save both partners a considerable amount of time and money.
A negotiated, uncontested divorce allows the spouses to remain in control of the terms of their divorce rather than having those terms imposed by a judge.
HOW SHOULD ISSUES INVOLVING CHILDREN BE NEGOTIATED?
If you and your partner have kids, they come first, and resolving custody, support, and visitation issues will be a priority in your divorce. If a custody dispute, for example, cannot be resolved voluntarily, privately, and outside of the courtroom, a resolution may be imposed by a judge.
Any parent who is divorcing in Indiana will require a lawyer’s help to negotiate child custody, child support, and visitation agreements. Parents should take these steps in advance of any negotiations regarding custody, support, and visitation:
Have an accomplished divorce lawyer’s advice and insights. Make sure that you know your legal rights and responsibilities as a parent before the negotiations begin.
Draft your own parenting plan in writing. The more specificity you can include regarding transportation, schedules, and related matters, the better. Let your attorney advise you.
Collect any documents that might be pertinent: your children’s medical records, report cards, and any other key documents and information.
WHAT DOES A CHILD CUSTODY AGREEMENT NEED TO INCLUDE?
The final result of a child custody negotiation should be a custody agreement that:
- specifies which parent will provide the primary residence of the child
- spells out each parent’s obligations and duties
- sustains the child’s everyday life and activities with the least possible disruption
- protects and advances the best interests of the child
Indiana divorce courts want divorcing parents to cooperate and put their children’s interests first. Neglecting your kids is an oversight that must be avoided if you’ve been served divorce papers or if you know that a divorce is inevitable.
WHAT ABOUT NEGOTIATING THE DIVISION OF PROPERTIES AND ASSETS?
Whether or not you and your spouse are parents, a divorce means that you will have to divide the marital assets, properties, and debts.
Once again, if you and your partner can resolve these matters privately and outside of the courtroom, you will remain in control of the settlement agreement, and you will both save a substantial amount of time and money.
Even though Indiana is not a “community property” state, courts are required to ensure an “equitable” property division and that marital property is distributed in a “just and reasonable” manner. This means that each spouse gets roughly half of the property and assets.
HOW CAN A DIVORCE LAW FIRM HELP?
When spouses can reach a private agreement regarding assets and properties, they can make any arrangement they like, provided that the arrangement is fair to both parties and is agreed upon voluntarily.
Spouses who can reach a private agreement regarding properties and assets can avoid having a court impose a settlement.
However, deciding what is marital property and what is personal property can often become a point of contention in a divorce, but a good Indiana divorce lawyer can often help couples to agree on an acceptable division of property and assets without having to go to court.
WHAT IF YOUR DIVORCE NEGOTIATIONS DON’T GO ANYWHERE?
When a marital relationship has deteriorated to a degree where the spouses simply cannot work together constructively, an uncontested divorce may no longer be possible. However, a contested divorce does not have to be an acrimonious procedure, and it can provide some advantages.
For example, a contested divorce allows you to file discovery motions. If your marriage is at the point where you cannot trust your spouse, a discovery motion can compel that spouse to disclose assets that may have been hidden – assets that you may be able to claim as marital property.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT DIVORCE IN INDIANA?
To qualify to divorce in this state, one partner must be an Indiana resident (or posted to an Indiana military installation) for at least six months and reside in the county where the divorce petition will be filed for at least three months prior to filing a Petition for Dissolution.
Let an experienced Lake County divorce attorney help you. If you cannot negotiate with your spouse, and you need spousal support payments or child support payments, your attorney will protect your rights and will ensure that you are treated fairly and justly by the Indiana courts.
If you’re convinced that a good divorce lawyer is out of your price range, speak to a good lawyer anyway. Most Indiana divorce attorneys are willing to work with clients, and in some divorces, a court may order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees as a term of the divorce settlement.
Whether your divorce will be uncontested, or if you anticipate that you will have to “battle it out” in a courtroom, this cannot be stated strongly enough: You must have an experience Indiana divorce lawyer’s guidance as soon as you know that a divorce is imminent. That is your right.