8 Things You Need To Know About Divorce In Indiana
You’ve just been served with divorce papers. This tends to provoke a dramatic response in most people.
Maybe you saw this coming, maybe you were told it was coming, or maybe you were blindsided. Whichever it was, it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re standing there holding those papers. Especially if you were served by a process server or while at work.
If you’ve read the divorce papers (also called the Petition for Dissolution in Indiana), then a lot of questions and emotions are swirling in your head. Generally, people usually feel one of the following four emotions strongly:
Here are 8 things you need to know after being served with divorce papers in Indiana.
While this article addresses the specific divorce subtopic of being served with divorce papers, I have written an article outlining the divorce laws in Indiana and the Indiana divorce process in general. That article may answer some of the other questions you may have about divorce in Indiana.
1. Don’t Freak Out!
Seriously. Take a Breath. Avoid any knee-jerk reactions. We realize this easier said than done.
Divorce has been ranked as the most stressful life event for adults who must go through it, so most people understandably freak out. Now is a good time to reach out to your support system. Your friends and family are much better sounding boards for your emotions right now than sending that nasty text or email.
It is strange that a document can provoke such a response. The document itself is just a stoic piece of paper with words on it, maybe even with nicer words than a couple has heard from each other in the months leading up to it. But seeing those divorce papers – in black and white – lets you know that it is really happening. And that hurts.
But just because you have been served with divorce papers does not mean you have to treat it like a declaration of war. The divorce can still end amicably, and you may never have to set foot in a courtroom. How you act from this point on is very important as it will set the tone for the divorce.
2. Don’t Stress About The Allegations In The Divorce Papers
Usually, the allegations in a divorce petition are generic but some lawyers do put hurtful allegations in the petition. Try not to let it upset you because these allegations generally have no legal impact on your case.
For example, you may see a general allegation from your spouse “that it would be in the best interest of the child(ren), that sole custody be awarded” to him or her. But other than stating their preference, this allegation will have no impact on the final custody decision. If custody is contested, the court will ultimately decide the custody issue using eight factors under Indiana law.
3. You Do NOT Have To File A Response To A Petition For Dissolution In Indiana
Unlike other states, there is no requirement in Indiana that you answer the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In Indiana, the allegations contained in the Petition for Dissolution are not automatically accepted as true if you fail to file an answer.
However, sometimes, a party may want to file a Counter-Petition for Dissolution. Why? Because if your spouse files the Petition for Dissolution, and then decides to dismiss the Petition later before its finalized, you still may want to proceed, but you will have to start all over and file again. Indiana has a sixty (60) day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized after filing. If your spouse dismisses after the sixty days, and you refile, you will have to wait the sixty days again.
Most divorces take longer than sixty days. But if you have filed a Counter-Petition, the case would continue on your Counter-Petition even if your spouse dismissed their original Petition. Another reason for a Counter-Petition is if you are requesting something that the other spouse did not ask for, such as custody, alimony (maintenance in Indiana), or legal fees.
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4. Start Thinking About Hiring An Indiana Divorce Lawyer
You need to make the decision if you will need an attorney or if you want to try to do it on your own. If you and your spouse have substantial assets or children under 18, we highly recommend contacting a qualified Indiana divorce attorney to represent you. As you can see from (3) above, just figuring out whether you want to file a Counter-Petition as a legal strategy can be confusing.
Don’t rush out and hire the first divorce lawyer you meet. Most family law attorneys have free consultations. Meet with a few of them to get an idea of who you like and want to represent you.
One thing we often hear from people is that they can’t afford a divorce lawyer because their spouse makes all or most of the money in the marriage. What they don’t understand is that Indiana law allows the courts to award a party reasonable attorney fees for maintaining or defending a divorce case, as well as for legal services provided before and after the divorce proceeding. The Court will look at the following factors to determine if the attorney fees should be paid by the other spouse:
- The resources of each spouse;
- The employability of each spouse; and
- The economic condition of each spouse.
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Lawyers are in the business of persuasion. We are trained to advocate for our clients by knowing the law and articulating our clients’ positions to the court much more persuasively than the clients could themselves, even with the proper knowledge.
5. Do Not Post About Your Divorce On Facebook or Social Media!
Really, don’t do it. These are the times we live in. Anything you post on Facebook or other social media account about your case, spouse, children, can be used as evidence in the divorce proceedings. We know you’re emotional, but if you overshare you may pay the price.
Pictures of you drinking or partying will not play well with a judge when custody is on the line either.
6. Keep Your Texts, Emails, & Voicemails With Your Spouse Civil
Just like your social media posts can be evidence, your emails and texts can also be evidence at any hearing. It can be hard for many people not to lash out after being served with divorce papers. Especially if it was unexpected. But, if you and your spouse have children and will be contesting custody, disparaging the other parent is not a good way to win custody.
If you have minor children, even though you will be divorced, you will still have to deal with your ex-spouse. So, this rule will apply long after the divorce. Most couples are awarded joint legal custody, which is different than physical custody. We’ll address that in another post. But, being able to communicate with an ex is necessary for a court to award joint legal custody.
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Don’t give your spouse ammunition for any hearings by going on a rant in an email or text. If you do, you can expect to be red faced in court when its being read out loud in the courtroom. Nasty voicemails aren’t pleasant to listen to either.
7. Keep the Children Out Of It
As difficult as it is for you, it is even more difficult for your children. Often children feel responsible even though it never a child’s fault. Your children may need counseling to help them cope, especially if they are older.
Don’t use the children as pawns in the divorce or disparage the other parent to them. The court looks down upon this and it affects the ultimate custody determination.
8. Avoid Family Violence!
This is a must! With emotions running so high, if there have been issues before, then they could definitely get worse. When both spouses are living at the same residence after the divorce papers were served, you need to avoid situations were violence could occur. If you have the slightest inclination that there could be a problem, you need to leave the situation or house immediately.
If anything happens, call 911 and report it.
We Are Here To Help!
Each divorce case is very fact specific and you should discuss your case and legal strategy with an Indiana Family Law Attorney who understands these issues, the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure, and the Indiana Rules of Evidence. I have also written an article outlining the divorce laws in Indiana and the Indiana divorce process in general. That article may answer some of the other questions you may have about divorce in Indiana.
Avnet Law offers free consultations for new clients. Call 1-877-77-AVNET to schedule your consultation or contact us below with any additional questions you may have about divorce in Indiana. We can also help you with any other family law legal issues you may be facing.