When filing for divorce in Indiana, there are some common mistakes that a party may want to avoid in order to prevent future complications. These missteps can be easily averted with a little information and some advance planning. This blog discusses typical errors and oversights parties might make when filing for divorce in Indiana and how you can avoid them.
Not taking important items with you when moving out or allowing your spouse to take them when they move out is possibly the number one mistake that parties make. Before running to the courthouse to file for a divorce, you need to ensure that you have access to important documents and records, sentimental items such as scrap books, videos, and photographs, and your personal care items. Collecting important documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, deeds, and vehicle titles to keep in a place where your spouse cannot take them before anyone moves out or files for divorce can save you time and frustration later. Similarly, putting up sentimental items is a good idea as well. It can not only help ensure that your spouse does not take them and refuse to give them back, but you may want to use videos and photographs as evidence during the court proceedings and will need to have them in your possession. Finally, it is not uncommon for a party to leave the marital residence while angry, not taking personal care items and clothing that they will need with them. Once you leave the home, it can become nearly impossible to get your spouse to cooperate with you in retrieving these necessities. So, make sure that you pack some bags and leave at a time when you can take your personal items with you. It should be noted here that leaving the residence may not be a good idea, unless you are in danger of being harmed. It is recommended that you consult an attorney before moving out to ensure that your rights will be protected if you do so.
Another common mistake parties make when filing for divorce is not ensuring that they have copies of all the bills and financial account statements when they are not completely knowledgeable about the marital finances. In most marriages, one party is in charge of the finances and knows how much money the couple has, where the assets are located, and what debts there are. Oftentimes, the other party knows little to nothing about the marital debts and assets and may be unaware of investment or savings accounts or to whom the parties owe money and how much. If you are not the one who handles the finances, search your spouses files and take photographs or copies of all bank, retirement, and investment account statements as well as any insurance policy declarations, and all of the monthly bills. It can be difficult to determine a just and reasonable division of the property if one party is hiding debts or assets.
Leaving the marital residence when there are minor children is another common mistake a party can make when divorcing. And it can have a profound effect on a future custody order. If there are minor children, a spouse contemplating divorce should be aware of the best interests of the child standard the courts use when determining custody. Original physical custody decisions are governed by the custody order statute (I.C. 31-17-2-8), which provides a list of factors the court must consider when determining the best interests of the child. These factors include the child’s relationship with each parent and adjustment to their home, school, and community. In light of these two factors, if you plan to ask for custody, you may want to ensure that you are spending quality time with your child and performing daily care tasks, such as bathing, dressing, helping with homework, preparing meals, and driving them to and attending their activities. You can document this with videos or photographs and by keeping a detailed journal. It may also be wise to consult an attorney before leaving the residence, with or without your children, as this could affect a custody determination when the court considers the children’s adjustment to their home, relationship with each parent, and any other factors that a move could affect.
Once deciding to divorce, or after the divorce petition has been filed, the number one mistake parties commonly make is to spend or withdraw money, for purposes other than living expenses, from joint accounts or accounts which are considered marital property. Indiana’s division of property statute (I.C. 31-15-7-4) defines marital property as any property owned by either party before the marriage, acquired by a party during the marriage on their own, or obtained by both parties during the marriage through their joint efforts. It is assumed that an equal division of the property is just and reasonable (I.C. 31-15-7-5). However, the statute does provide several factors the court will consider if a party does not believe that an equal division is not just and reasonable. It might still be a good idea to assume all property is a marital asset, until the court determines otherwise, as a party who dissipates marital assets will have the value of those assets subtracted from their equal share and may find themselves defending accusations that they spent far more than they actually did.
If you are considered filing for divorce in Indiana, the experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help ensure that you are aware of the common mistakes parties make so that you can avoid them. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.