Understanding what to expect when filing for divorce in Indiana can help you prepare for what's ahead. Read this attorney-written comprehensive guide to clarify common misconceptions so that you are better informed as you move forward. To contact our office, fill out the form, and we will get back to you.
Divorce litigation can be time consuming, stressful, and often confusing for many litigants. A common misconception is that once a party has hired an attorney, the attorney will do all the work, and the party must only appear at hearings.
However, there may be discovery requests that your attorney cannot answer for you, documents and evidence that you will need to obtain, a deposition or mediation scheduled, or additional information needed from you. Knowing what you can expect may help to minimize the stress and remove some of the confusion about the process and what might be legally required of you. This blog offers a comprehensive guide to divorce litigation in Indiana, discussing legal procedures and what a party can anticipate through-out the litigation.
Before litigation even begins, parties who are able to discuss a possible settlement agreement should do so. While it may not lead to a full agreement, it can narrow down the issues, helping to reduce the eventual time spent in court and on litigation related tasks, and save you money on attorney fees. Any consultations that you have with attorneys will also be more productive as you can focus the conversation only on the issues which are still contested. Negotiations with your spouse can start with the statutes governing divorce (I.C. 31-15), child custody and visitation (I.C. 31-17), and child support (I.C. 31-16) then continue based on the criteria the court would use to decide each matter. If you cannot sit down with your spouse and have a rational conversation, you may wish to create a settlement proposal for them to read and make whatever changes they want, then send back to you for further negotiation or discussion.
Once the issues have been narrowed down to only those which are contested, lawyers have been hired, and a petition filed, litigation has begun. The party who did not file the petition (called the Respondent) will be served a copy of the petition, summons, and a notice of hearing, if a provisional hearing was requested. Provisional hearings are for divorcing couples who have children and cannot wait until the 60 day cooling off period ends for a custody, parenting time, or support order.
All orders issued after a provisional hearing are temporary and only remain in effect until a final hearing can be held and a permanent order issued, or the case is dismissed by the parties (I.C. 31-15-4-14). Neither party is prejudiced by provisional orders concerning the parties child (I.C. 31-15-4-13), meaning that your spouse being granted custody in a provisional order, does not give him or her any advantage in obtaining custody in a final order.
While waiting for the cooling off period to expire, the parties may conduct discovery. Discovery in a divorce generally involves sending requests for production of documents and interrogatories to the other party. Documents frequently requested include paystubs, income tax returns, proof of health insurance expenses for the parties’ children, and financial account statements. Parties are required to produce these documents within 30 days if they are in possession of them or they can easily be obtained (Ind. R. Trial P. 34). Interrogatories are questions that the receiving party is required to answer under oath and return to the sending party within 30 days (Ind. R. Trial P. 33).
Common interrogatories in a divorce include questions about your employer, hours worked, and pay, your child rearing techniques and methods of discipline, the names, ages, and relationship to you of all members of your household, if any member of your household has a criminal record, and if your children have their own bedrooms in your home. You should never send documents or interrogatory answers to your spouse’s attorney yourself. Instead, take it all to your attorney’s office so it can be reviewed and returned by your attorney.
While your attorney may use discovery to obtain evidence and information from your spouse, they could also need to collect evidence and additional information from you as well. Some of the evidence requested might be documents that you need to acquire from a third party. You may also need to provide your attorney with your witnesses addresses and phone numbers, photographs, screen captures, e-mails, text messages, or other evidence to support your testimony or that of your witnesses. This evidence will likely need to be provided to your spouse’s attorney as well, so there could be deadlines for when you must submit it to your attorney so that they can review and forward the documents and information they intend to use at final hearing.
Depending on the contested issues, number of witnesses each party intends to call, and the amount of time each attorney has requested, your final hearing could be scheduled for one hour or for a full day. Your witnesses will be issued subpoenas based on the approximate time they will be called to testify if the hearing is expected to last more than a couple of hours. Once the hearing begins, witnesses will likely be asked to wait in the hallway until they are called to testify. This is called separation of witnesses and is done so that one witness cannot repeat or duplicate another’s testimony.
The party who filed the divorce petition (called the petitioner) will go first. Each witness will be questioned by the attorney who called them to testify and then cross-examined by the other party’s attorney. When it is your turn to testify, keep in mind that when being cross-examined, you may not have to answer a question asked of you, so do not begin rattling off an answer until your attorney has had a moment to object to the question, should there be an objection. It is also okay if you do not remember something and can simply answer, “I do not remember” or “I do not recall”. If you are unsure exactly what you are being asked, do not try to guess. Tell the court you would like the question to be repeated or rephrased because you are not quite clear on what the question is.
When your spouse or his or her witnesses are testifying, you may hear them giving some misinformation or flat out lying. If this happens, remain calm and simply write down that the witness is lying in the notebook your attorney provided you at the beginning of the hearing. Your attorney can then question them further about the issue or submit any documentary evidence you may have that tends to prove the testimony was a lie. Once the testimony is complete the hearing will end with an order from the judge, or the judge taking the matter under advisement. If taken under advisement, it may be up to 30 days before a final ruling is issued, however, it generally does not take that long.
If you are considering filing for divorce or a divorce has already been filed, the attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help fight for you and protect your rights. 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.