Getting divorced is complicated. There is simply no other way to put it. From understanding the nuances of Indiana’s divorce laws to making sure you make smart decisions that serve your long-term needs, just about every aspect of your divorce will involve questions you never previously though to ask, and issues you never previously thought to consider.
Even the terminology can be confusing. This is especially true in Indiana, where the divorce laws use different terms (and incorporate different principles) than most other states. This glossary will help you begin to familiarize yourself with the terms you are likely to hear during your divorce. If you are seriously considering a divorce and would like to speak with an attorney, you can contact our Carmel, IN family law offices for a free initial consultation.
“Co-parenting” is one option for establishing parenting time rights after a divorce in Indiana. Unlike a traditional custody-and-visitation arrangement (Indiana does not actually use the terms “custody” and “visitation”), with co-parenting, the parents structure an arrangement that allows them to continue to jointly spend time with their children after their divorce.
“Collaborative law” is a relatively new concept in family law. In a collaborative law divorce (or a “collaborative divorce”), the spouses work together to come to mutually-agreeable terms, and they engage outside professionals such as social workers and financial advisors to health them find resolutions that are advantageous to both parties.
In the family law context, a “contested” divorce is simply one in which the spouses are not in full agreement on all of the various issues involved. Contested does not necessarily mean adversarial; in fact, most contested divorces are still resolved out of court. If a divorce is “uncontested,” this means that the spouses are fully in agreement with regard to property division, parenting time and financial support. While this is a possibility in some cases, it is important to make sure you are aware of all potential issues before committing to an uncontested divorce.
“Dissolution” is the legal term for a divorce in Indiana. When you file for divorce, you are technically filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
“Litigation” is the process of going to court and asking a judge to render a decision based on the facts and law involved in your divorce. Trial is the last step in litigation, but there are a number of pre-trial steps as well. While litigation is sometimes necessary, even spouses who initially seem to be completely at odds will often find a less adversarial and more cost-effective way to come to terms.
“Maintenance” (or “spousal maintenance”) is Indiana’s word for alimony. Indiana’s maintenance laws are more stringent than most other states’ alimony laws, and awards of maintenance are available only in four specific circumstances.
The “marital pot” is everything you and your spouse own at the time of your divorce. If you are familiar with the terms “equitable distribution” and “community property,” you should know that neither of these terms is directly on point when it comes to dividing assets in an Indiana divorce. In Indiana, the entire marital pot is subject to division, and the law presumes that a 50/50 split is fair unless the circumstances indicate otherwise.
“Mediation” is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that often proves effective when spouses wish to avoid litigation but are unable to come to terms on their own. In mediation, the spouses work together with the help of a neutral third party (a “mediator”) who has extensive experience resolving conflicts during the divorce process. However, unlike a judge, a mediator does not make any decisions regarding the outcome of the spouses’ divorce. Instead, the mediator’s role is to help each spouse see the other’s point of view, and to help both spouses consider options for compromise that they had not previously considered on their own.
“Parenting time” is what Indiana uses in lieu of custody and visitation. The Indiana Supreme Court’s Parenting Time Guidelines are designed to help divorcing parents develop legally-enforceable parenting time plans that serve their children’s best interests. However, in most cases, it is not mandatory that parents stick to the Guidelines. In fact, the Preamble to the Guidelines states, “In the event the parties cannot create their own parenting time agreement, these guidelines represent the minimum time a parent should have to maintain frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with a child.”
Once one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, both spouses have the option to file a motion for a “provisional hearing.” This provides an opportunity to establish formal, legally-enforceable terms that apply during the divorce process. Provisional hearings are commonly used to address issues such as parenting time and financial support when spouses are living separately.
“QDRO” (often pronounced “quadro”) is the acronym for “qualified domestic relations order.” Due to the tax rules that apply to retirement plans and account distributions, spouses who divide retirement assets during their divorce must do so pursuant to a QDRO. While this is a formal order, spouses can still negotiate the terms of their QDRO out of court.
In Indiana, all divorces are subject to a 60-day “waiting period.” This waiting period runs from the date either spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. While it is not unusual for spouses to spend at least 60 days negotiating the terms of their divorce, if you and your spouse are able to come to terms more quickly, you can obtain an interim order that will preserve the terms of your agreement until the waiting period expires.
If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Indiana, your first step is to schedule a free initial consultation with a local family law attorney. To speak with attorney Joshua R. Hains in Carmel, call (317) 688-1305 or request an appointment online today.