In many cases, divorce lawsuits will be a messy business. Between angry spouses, children, and lawyers, the process can become both expensive and emotionally draining. Not all divorce lawsuits are contested, however. Many spouses in Indiana are able to resolve their issues out of court by filing for a “summary dissolution,” commonly known as an uncontested divorce.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Indiana uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Indiana Defined
Like many states, Indiana recognizes the value of allowing couples to seek a fast-track uncontested divorce. That is why the Indiana legislature allows spouses to seek what is known as an uncontested summary dissolution.1 In a summary dissolution proceeding, the court simply makes a ruling based on the information in front of it. There is no trial and no jury. The summary dissolution process, therefore, results in a quick and inexpensive mechanism for divorce.
The key aspect of uncontested divorce through the summary dissolution process is agreement. To grant a summary dissolution, the court must find that the parties have agreed on the various issues that exist in the divorce lawsuit. Complete agreement of the spouses is necessary for the court to consider a summary dissolution petition. If you and your spouse can amicably agree on the terms of your divorce, an uncontested Indiana divorce may work for you.
Requirements for Seeking a Indiana Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Indiana, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Indiana divorce attorney or family lawyer.
Indiana has a two-tier divorce residency requirement. Both aspects of residency must be met before Indiana courts will grant a divorce.First, at least one of the spouses must have lived in Indiana for the last six months or more. Second, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the specific Indiana County where the spouses file for divorce for three months or more.2
Spouses must also prove that grounds (meaning a reason) exist for granting a divorce. Indiana has three at-fault grounds for divorce, but these generally do not facilitate the uncontested divorce process because they are more complex to prove. Indiana also allows no-fault divorce on the ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This essentially means that there cannot be any real chance of reconciliation.3
Finally, the spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce. This is most often accomplished by creating a written, legally-binding separation agreement.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
In Indiana, a fully-complete separation agreement will address the following issues in the divorce:
- Spousal maintenance;
- Disposition of property (including division of the marital home and family debts);
- Child custody and visitation; and
- Support of any children.
The court may alter the terms of the agreement if it believes it is not fair to either spouse or in the best interests of the child. Specifically, the spouses should make sure that they use Indiana’s child support guidelines when creating the agreement.4
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Indiana
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- Next, you and your spouse should acquire the necessary divorce paperwork. For spouses seeking a divorce without the help of the attorney, the Indiana Supreme Court’s website contains a series of sample divorce forms in its self-service legal center.5
- You and your spouse should then discuss the creation of a separation agreement. Remember: for your divorce to be considered truly uncontested, you must agree on each of the issues described above.
- You and your spouse must then determine the proper venue (or filing court). In general, you should file for divorce in the Domestic Relations Court in the County in which you meet the residency requirement.
- Once you are ready to file for divorce, you should file a petition for dissolution of marriage. Indiana’s divorce statutes describe specifically what the petition needs to contain6, but the Supreme Court of Indiana’s pre-prepared forms will work for most spouses.
- Once one spouse has filed the divorce complaint, the filing spouse must serve the other spouse with the divorce paperwork.
- Wait! The court cannot hear the petition for dissolution until at least sixty days after filing. During the waiting period, file a written waiver of final hearing and send your written agreement to the judge. At the end of the 60 day waiting period, the court will summarily approve the separation agreement and mail the spouses a decree of divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-2-13.
- Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-2-6.
- Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-2-3.
- Dillon v. Dillon, 696 N.E.2d 85, 1998 Ind. App. LEXIS 1004 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998).
- Form Instructions for Divorce with Children and with Agreement on All Issues, INDIANA SUPREME COURT SELF-SERVICE LEGAL CENTER; Divorce without children and with an agreement on all issues, INDIANA JUDICIAL BRANCH.
- Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-2-5.