Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys
Obtaining a divorce can be a drawn-out process, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. If you live in the Indianapolis area, the divorce attorneys at ROBERTS MEANS, LLC are ready to assist with all of the legal aspects of the dissolution of a marriage.
To learn more about your options and the proper actions to take, contact us today at (317) 353-3600.
I’ve Decided I Want a Divorce.
You have decided that you want a divorce. The reasons why are personal to you. Perhaps your spouse was unfaithful, or maybe the spark is gone. Regardless of the reason, it is a big decision. We will help you process that decision and assess the appropriate steps to take.
If you are reading this, it’s safe to assume you are considering hiring a divorce attorney, or have made that decision and are assessing who to retain. Presuming you are in the consideration stage, how do you decide if you need an divorce lawyer?
If you and your spouse are amicably parting ways (or reasonably close thereto), have no children, no business interests, and no significant financial interests to divide, you may be able to complete your divorce on your own and not have a divorce court judge make decisions for you. Sometimes a divorce consists only of dissolving the legal recognition of your marriage. If that is the case, the State of Indiana provides access to forms that can assist you through the process and can be found at this link: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice/2333.htm Feel free to give us a call to discuss if you can handle your case on your own and forego the services of a divorce attorney. We can assist with making that decision and will not hesitate to advise you to file for divorce without a divorce lawyer if the circumstances indicate you can handle it.
You have probably gathered that if you have children, own a business, and/or have investments or retirement accounts, then it may be a good idea to retain a divorce attorney. There are other reasons to have counsel in a divorce, but those are a few examples of situations that can be difficult for an individual to handle on their own. Generally speaking, the non-attorney is not familiar with how child support is calculated, how to set forth custody and parenting time terms, how to value a business interest, or how to divide a 401(k). Should your situation involve one or more of those factors, it may be advisable to retain the best divorce lawyer to assist you with the process. Again, feel free to call us to discuss further. Also, reading other sections of our site may help you make the decision whether to retain a divorce attorney.
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Where to File for Divorce
In virtually every case, the Petition for Dissolution – the document that opens up a divorce case – will be filed in the county in which you reside. Indiana statute sets forth that you must have lived in the state for 6 months and in the county where the Petition is filed for 3 months. As your divorce attorney, we can assist you with deciding where to file.
Does it Matter Who Files First?
Short answer: No. The only circumstance where it may make a difference is if the parties can file in two different counties. The judge will not assign any weight or preference to the spouse who filed for divorce. Sometimes it makes a difference to the person to be the one who filed, or to not be the one who filed. Beyond certain aspects of divorce court procedure which can be discussed should you call, it makes no difference.
How Do I Pay the Bills?
You have filed for divorce. What are the ground rules while the case is awaiting a resolution? Those rules are the subject of what are known as provisional or preliminary orders. These orders set forth who sees this children and when, who is paying the mortgage and utilities, and other day-to-day and month-to-month obligations that must be addressed.
Provisional terms can be set in one of two ways. First, the parties can reach an agreement and file what is known as an Agreed Entry with the divorce court. Second, the parties can go to a provisional hearing. These hearings are usually set within about 30 days after the Petition for Dissolution is filed. Provisional hearings are generally only about 15-30 minutes in length and can be very important. As your divorce lawyer, we will ensure that you are prepared for such a hearing should one be necessary.
Discovery is how you find out what your spouse wants with regards to all aspects of the case – custody, parenting time, division of the marital estate. Discovery generally consists of two parts. Interrogatories are written questions that require written (or typed) answers. The key part to interrogatories is that they must be verified by the answering party. The answering party typically will be asked to state what orders they will request the divorce court enter. Our divorce court system is partially based upon an equal exchange of information so both parties can appropriately prepare for trial.
The second part of discovery is called a Request for Production of Documents. The title largely explains the process. You, or your spouse, will be requested to produce copies of such things as bank and credit card statements, retirement account balances, and other such financial documentation.
Some cases will also involve depositions. A deposition is an out-of-court proceedings where one attorney will ask a party questions which the deponent must answer under oath.
How Does My Case End?
Once a Petition for Dissolution is filed, the question is where do I go from here? For starters, Indiana law requires that a minimum of 60 days passes from the date the Petition is filed before a Decree of Dissolution may be entered.
Once the case is opened, our goal as your divorce attorney is to reach a resolution as efficiently as possible. Cases generally reach a conclusion in one of three ways:
- Informal settlement negotiations. Sometimes the spouses will talk with each other and reach an agreement as to all terms. Sometimes the divorce attorneys will talk or write each other and reach an agreement. And sometimes everyone will communicate and come to an agreement. This process is “informal” in the sense that the divorce court is not involved, except to review the terms of the agreement.
- Mediation. Mediation is a process whereby the parties hire a neutral third party, almost always a divorce attorney experienced in family law, to help negotiate a settlement. The mediation will take place over the course of a day with everyone at the same place, though not usually in the same office. The mediator goes between the rooms proposing terms from each party with the goal of finding a common set of provisions to which each party can agree. If a mediation is successful, the divorce attorneys will assist the parties in drafting a settlement agreement which would be signed before leaving the mediation.
- Final Hearing. Otherwise known as trial. Sometimes an agreement is just not possible. Every person has an “I just can’t do that” line. Maybe the parenting time just isn’t acceptable. Or perhaps the division of the financial aspects of the marriage is not fair. We understand that. You are not required to reach a settlement agreement. Our divorce court system is available to resolve cases if the parties cannot agree. And we are more than willing to take your case to divorce court if an agreement is not possible. If your case goes to a final hearing, it is imperative that you have the best divorce attorney on your side.
How Much Will My Case Cost?
The question you and everyone else wants to know. And with good reason. Paying for a divorce attorney is not alongside groceries, the power bill, and other usual monthly expenses in the family budget. It’s an unanticipated expense.
So, you may be saying to yourself, answer my question. The answer is, we don’t know. Divorce attorneys like to act like they know everything, but this question defies a simple answer. This is largely because there are two parties to every case. You are reasonable. You are willing to be fair. But what if your spouse is mad or does not want the divorce? The simple truth is one party can make a case expensive. This is done by not responding to discovery in a timely fashion or by refusing to negotiate a settlement.
First, a disclaimer: Nothing contained in this paragraph or website should be considered a guarantee as to how much your case will cost. Every case is different and this discussion is meant only to provide a general guideline. If you and your spouse agree on everything and there are no disagreements, your case may not exceed $1,500 in fees. Costs would involve filing fees, drafting the settlement agreement, and other related tasks require the time of an attorney.
What if my case is hotly disputed? I want the kids and he/she wants the kids. The proposed division of our assets is incredibly unfair. Well, then your case will be more expensive. Simple as that. As your divorce attorney, we will not sugarcoat the reality that trying to get what you want may be expensive and will work with you and keep you advised of your fees every step of the way.
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How Long Will My Case Take?
Per Indiana law, a minimum of 60 days. While we are not aware of any statistics on this issue, our experience is that 4-6 months is the average time it takes to resolve a case. There are many factors that influence how long your case will take. Does your spouse not want the divorce? How busy is the divorce court’s schedule? If you need a final hearing to resolve everything, it could be 6 months before the divorce court has an opening. There are a variety of factors which determine how quickly you can be divorced; chief among them is the attentiveness of your divorce attorney to your case. If you give us a call, we can discuss the specifics of your case in more detail.
Division of Property
A first concept that is helpful to understand when discussing the division of assets and liabilities is the “marital estate,” also referred to as the “marital pot.” The marital estate consists of all assets and liabilities of the parties, whether joint or individual, and whether existing prior to the marriage or acquired during the marriage.
Indiana law presumes that an equal division of the marital estate is just and reasonable. This means that if the parties have assets to be divided, the value of those assets should be divided equally. If the parties have a net negative marital estate, meaning they owe more to creditors than they possess in assets, the division will involve assignment of who pays which liabilities.
The equal division presumption can be rebutted, meaning that one party can ask the judge to award them more than 50% of the marital estate. Factors that can justify an unequal division include the respective earning capacities of the parties (one party earns much more than the other) or the contribution to the marital estate during the marriage (one party paid for substantially more assets than the other). Generally speaking, a divorce court will not deviate too significantly from the equal division presumption. While it is possible for one spouse to be awarded 60% of the marital estate, we would need to discuss the particulars of your case to make a preliminary assessment as to whether that may be possible in your case.
A potentially critical issue in calculating the marital estate is determining what, if any, assets should be awarded to only one party without disturbing the equal division presumption or by justifying a deviation from that presumption. One circumstance could be whether certain assets were inherited by one spouse. If so, an argument may be made that the inheriting spouse is solely entitled to those assets. It is important that your divorce attorney understand these arguments and how to advocate for the most fair result for you.
Another factor to keep in mind is that a judge will divide the value of assets and liabilities. For example, a house obviously cannot be split down the middle. Let’s presume that the wife wants the house and it is determined that the house has $100,000 equity. Whether in settlement discussions or trial, it would generally be appropriate that the husband be awarded $100,000 in value from another asset, for instance a retirement account. The same would hold true for assignment of liabilities. If you are ordered to pay a $5,000 Visa bill, then it may be proper that you either receive $5,000 in assets to offset that obligation, or that your spouse be ordered to pay $5,000 towards a different liability. These are intended only as broad examples and the division of a marital estate can, and often does, entail many such decisions. It is critical that you and your divorce attorney evaluate the value of each asset that is to be divided so as to insure that you are not treated unfairly.
Please contact us if you have questions concerning how your assets and liabilities may be divided.
First things first: Indiana law does not recognize the concept of alimony. A judge does not have the authority to order one party to pay alimony over any period of time. That does not mean the parties cannot agree that alimony will be paid, and there may be certain tax reasons to do so, but if your case goes to trial, alimony cannot be requested.
Indiana law does provide for what are called “maintenance” payments. Maintenance is appropriate in three limited circumstances:
- One spouse has a disability that inhibits their ability to support themselves;
- One spouse is providing care to a disable child and does not have sufficient assets to do so without assistance;
- One spouse quit his/her schooling or job to tend to homemaking and/or child rearing and needs education or training to become employable (this is referred to as rehabilitative maintenance).
Please contact us if you would like to discuss whether you may potentially be entitled to maintenance payments in your divorce case.