If you’re contemplating filing for divorce, you may be wondering, “What happens next?” Taking that first step can be scary, can leave you feeling sad, can sometimes even offer forms of relief, but often it just leaves a sense of anxiety because of the unknown. If you take out all the different complexities that can convolute each individual divorce, the legal process itself can be broken down into straightforward steps.
Indiana law requires a 60-day cooling-off period. Once the divorce paperwork has been filed, a court cannot legally dissolve a marriage until after 60 days have passed. This 60-day waiting period gives couples an opportunity to reconcile before any final court orders are entered, but in the event, reconciliation is not possible, this time should be used to determine what will happen with the marital estate and any children of the marriage.
Preliminary orders may be necessary. Preliminary orders, often also referred to as “provisional” orders, are one of the first steps to consider after filing for divorce. You can get provisional orders two ways: by agreement or via a hearing with the court. The benefit of these preliminary orders is that they lay out the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of each party during the 60-day waiting period. Who will pay the mortgage? Who will live where? Will I get any maintenance? How about child support?
Depending on your own personal family situation, you may or may not need provisional orders. Regardless of the method used, the terms will be binding on both parties until further order of the court or until a final settlement agreement has been entered in the case.
Discovery is an important tool and shouldn’t be ignored! You’ll hear the term “discovery” throughout your divorce proceedings. Discovery, simply put, is a way for each party to lay all their assets and liabilities on the table; it provides a means to an end. Why is this important? Because Indiana law presumes a 50/50 split of all marital assets and debts.
You can expect to have to fill out forms regarding information such as your weekly income, monthly expenses, any liabilities you owe, as well as any assets you own, including but not limited to bank accounts, retirement accounts, and even live insurance accounts. You may hear the term Interrogatories or receive Requests for Production of Documents, which are the most common forms of discovery used in a divorce. Although they can be time-consuming, these types of discovery requests are an important step in the process because they’re used to gather the necessary information to settle a divorce. Discovery is typically crafted entirely around the specifics of your family situation so, if you have children expect to see some questions and requests that specifically pertain to those children. If you’re a business owner, you can expect to see the same type of requests surrounding the business.
Mediation is a great way to customize an agreement specifically to the needs of your family. After preliminary orders, if any, have been issued and after discovery is complete, the next thing to consider is whether mediation is a viable option. In fact, many courts require parties to at least attempt to settle the divorce at mediation before a final hearing in the matter. Mediation allows the involved parties to negotiate settlement terms without the necessity of attending court.
A final hearing is the last step in the process of divorce. When it’s not possible to come to terms on your own, through the attorneys, or via mediation, you can expect you’ll be heading to court. A judge will hear the case and then issue orders regarding property settlement and custody, parenting time, and child support orders. Keep in mind that this step in the process doesn’t afford couples the same flexibility as mediation.
At Hollingsworth Roberts Means, LLC, P.C., our team has the experience, the understanding, and the compassion to assist with your family law needs. If you have questions or concerns regarding divorce, custody, mediation, collaborative law, or any other family law concerns, please contact our firm today.