Each divorce case is unique and can take unexpected turns. But there is a typical process that most cases follow, and knowing these steps can help you prepare for what’s coming next. If you’re considering divorce and need specific guidance, contact our office today to request a consultation.
If you’ve made a choice to end your marriage, there are steps you can take to prepare before the process begins, such as gathering and organizing important paperwork like financial documents and insurance policies. Consider what your goals are going to be once the process is over, like keeping the family home, for example, and what type of divorce process is right for your situation. Couples who agree on all or most issues may be able to save time with an uncontested divorce, but couples whose goals are very far apart might need to prepare for a divorce trial.
You should also seek the advice of a local divorce attorney, who can offer detailed guidance based on the specifics of your case. A lawyer who concentrates in family law will be familiar with the courts and judges in your area and can help advocate for your rights and best interests.
To start the legal process of divorce, you’ll need to file the paperwork required by the state, including a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, and Financial Declaration. Other forms may also be required depending on your circumstances. The petition will include statements, called allegations, explaining what you want out of the divorce settlement, such as sole custody of your children. Having these forms prepared by an attorney helps ensure that your petition is as thorough as possible.
By law, your spouse must receive notice, or service, of the divorce filing through an official means, such as certified mail or a process server. For spouses working collaboratively on a divorce agreement, this step may be just a formality, but in some cases, it is the first time the other party becomes aware of the divorce. If your spouse cannot be located or is attempting to conceal their whereabouts, you may be able to satisfy the service requirement through notice by publication, where the notice is published in an approved newspaper. The spouse who receives the petition may file a formal response, called an answer, but it is not required.
While a final divorce settlement is being worked out, some issues, such as where your children will live, must be decided temporarily. If you and your former spouse cannot agree on these issues, you can request a provisional hearing, also called a preliminary hearing, asking the judge to issue a ruling. The provisional order will stay in effect until the final divorce agreement is reached. Provisional hearings can be requested throughout the proceedings, but they’re most common immediately after the filing.
Each spouse will be required to submit financial disclosures to the court, including any sources of income, assets, and debts. It is very important to submit a complete and truthful financial disclosure. Any relevant financial information you or your spouse leave out could be viewed as an attempt to conceal assets or mislead the court. A skilled family law attorney can help you determine the best way to report complex items, such as a quarterly bonus that fluctuates.
Any time between the divorce filing and the final settlement, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney may request, submit, and exchange documents and evidence they believe are necessary to establish an accurate picture of your finances and marital property. Gathering documents and preparing them in advance can help reduce the amount of time needed for discovery, saving time and money for both sides
Either side may also file motions throughout the course of the divorce. A motion is essentially a formal request to the court to make a decision. Motions are used for many reasons, including to request provisional hearings or to force the other party to comply with a previous court order. Even after the final decree is entered, a former spouse may submit certain motions, such as a request to modify child custody terms.
Once each party has submitted their information and requests to the other, you will work with your attorney to resolve any areas of conflict. The amount of disagreement between you and your soon-to-be former spouse will determine if or how much negotiation is needed to reach a settlement that achieves your goals.
In some situations, such as highly contested custody issues, mediation may also be recommended or even required by the court. During this process, a professional mediator will examine the issues from a neutral position (meaning they don’t represent either spouse) and suggest a resolution.
If all issues are resolved through negotiation or mediation, then a final agreement will be drafted and submitted to the court. Indiana law requires a 60-day waiting period from the time a Petition for Divorce is filed until a divorce can be granted. So even if you reach an agreement very quickly, you may need to wait until the 60 days have passed. Once this agreement is approved by the court, a Decree of Dissolution will be issued and the marriage is legally terminated.
If you are not able to agree, or one spouse is determined not to compromise, then the case may go to trial, where a settlement will be decided by a judge. Divorce trials are relatively rare, and they can be costly. You should carefully weigh the benefits and risks of a trial before deciding to pursue this option.
After the divorce is final, there may still be some legal work to do to carry out the terms of the agreement, such as selling property or closing joint accounts. If needed, your lawyer can assist with ensuring that the terms of the settlement are followed and take legal action if they are not.
Divorce can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone. At López Law Office, we use our knowledge and experience in Indiana divorce law to fight for the best interests of you and your family. To discuss your divorce or family law matter, contact our office today.
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