Every state has its own rules and procedures for divorce. Here's what you need to know about how to get a divorce (also called a "dissolution of marriage") in Indiana.
As long as you follow the state's marriage license rules, you can get married in any state—even if you don't live there. The requirements for ending a marriage, though, are not as relaxed. Instead, you must meet a state's residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts.
To get a divorce in Indiana, at least one spouse must have been:
(Ind. Code § 31-15-2-6 (2021).)
The purpose of state residency requirements is to prevent one spouse from moving to another state (or county) to "shop" for a court or judge that will view the case more favorably for that spouse. Residency requirements also prevent one spouse from filing in a location far from the other just to make it more difficult (and expensive) for the other spouse to respond and participate.
Indiana allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. A no-fault divorce is one in which the court doesn't require either spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other's actions caused the marriage to fail.
No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you don't have to have your spouse's consent to end the marriage.
The no-fault ground (reason) for divorce in Indiana is the "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage. (Ind. Code § 31-15-2-3(1) (2021).) The key issue is whether there is any possibility that the spouses can reconcile. If not, the court will grant the divorce on this ground.
In a fault-based divorce, one or both spouses will have to present evidence to the judge that proves the spouse committed acts that meet one of Indiana's fault-based grounds for divorce. Fault-based divorces are often more contentious, more expensive, and last longer than no-fault divorces. The fault-based grounds for divorce in Indiana are:
(Ind. Code § 31-15-2-3 (2021).)
Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses can't agree and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.
Uncontested divorces are usually faster and less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court—all the judge must do is review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.
An uncontested divorce in Indiana is called a divorce "with agreement." The forms you'll use depend on your situation. Click on the link that best describes your situation to obtain the forms for filing your divorce.
Check out Indiana Legal Help's detailed instructions for help filling out these forms.
The court will issue a summary dissolution decree (an order that finalizes your divorce) without holding a final hearing if you file:
The court must wait at least 60 days after the petition is filed to enter the decree. (Ind. Code § 31-15-2-13 (2021).)
If you and your spouse can't agree on all the issues in your divorce, you will be filing a divorce "without agreement." The forms you'll use depend on your situation. Click on the link that best describes your situation to obtain the forms for filing your divorce.
Check out Indiana Legal Help's detailed instructions for help filling out these forms.
Although you can represent yourself in your divorce, many people involved in a contested divorce choose to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the court system and present their case to the court.
By law, the court can't hold a final hearing on your divorce until at least 60 days after the petition is filed. (Ind. Code § 31-15-2-10 (2021).) Most contested divorces will take longer—it can take up to a year and a half (or more, depending on the circumstances) to finalize a contested divorce in Indiana.
Like most legal proceedings, you must pay court filing fees to begin your divorce. As of 2021, the filing fee for a civil case (such as divorce) is $157. Your cost might be different if you pay to have the divorce papers served on your spouse or if the clerk of the court assesses other fees. Contact the court clerk in the county where you will file your divorce to find out the current filing fee.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the judge to waive the fees. You can request a waiver by filing a Verified Motion for Fee Waiver (make sure you're using the correct fee waiver form for family law cases). If the court grants your request to waive fees, you will not have to pay any court costs—such as filing fees or fees for issuance of service of process—during your divorce.
Once you file the paperwork, you will need to provide copies of all the documents to ("serve") your spouse and submit proof of service to the court. You can't serve the papers yourself—you must hire someone over age 18 and who is not a party to the case to serve them. Many people hire law enforcement (such as the sheriff) or a professional process server to serve divorce papers.
Service of divorce papers can be done by:
If you're unable to serve your spouse this way, you can ask the court for permission to serve your spouse in another way, such as by publication or posting.
You can avoid hiring law enforcement or a process server to serve your spouse if your spouse agrees to "waive" service. To waive service, your spouse must fill out and sign a Verified Waiver of Service of Process and Acknowledgement of Receipt of Petition and Summons. The form must be signed in front of a notary.
Indiana Legal Help provides a video with information about how to serve your spouse in Indiana.
When you file for divorce in Indiana, if you need the court to enter temporary orders about child custody, support, or another issue while the divorce is pending, you can request a provisional hearing. If the judge issues temporary orders, these orders will be replaced with permanent orders when your divorce is final.
Indiana is an equitable division state, which means the court will divide marital property and debt fairly—but not necessarily equally. Indiana courts presume that dividing marital property equally between the parties is "just and reasonable," but may divide property unequally if a spouse shows that equal division would be unfair. The judge will consider:
(Ind. Code §§ 31-15-7-5, 31-15-7-7 (2021).)
Indiana law also accounts for the situation where one spouse has paid for the other's postsecondary education tuition, books, and laboratory fees, but the parties don't have a lot of marital property. For example, if a husband helped his wife pay for law school, but the marriage ended before the couple acquired a lot of property (or otherwise benefited financially from the wife's law career), an Indiana judge can order the wife to make payments to reimburse the husband for his share of her law school costs. (Ind. Code § 31-15-7-6 (2021).)
See Indiana Divorce: Dividing Property for more details.
Indiana judges can award spousal support ("maintenance") when they find that one spouse
Indiana judges may also award maintenance after considering:
If the court evaluates these factors and decides maintenance is necessary, the court can award maintenance for up to three years from the date the divorce is finalized. (Ind. Code § 31-15-7-2 (2021).)
Like all states, Indiana courts begin with a presumption that it's best for a child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. If possible, Indiana judges will try to arrange for joint custody, but will evaluate what's in the best interests of the child to determine the exact nature of custody and visitation. (Ind. Code § 31-17-2-13 (2021).)
See Child Custody and Visitation in Indiana for more information.
Indiana requires both parents to support their children after divorce. Indiana courts use the state's child support guidelines to evaluate how much support a parent must pay. Child support payments are not affected by the parent's behavior during marriage. Instead, the court will consider factors such as the:
(Ind. Code § 31-16-6-1 (2021).)
See Child Support in Indiana for more details.
Not all divorces need to be drawn out battles in the courtroom. Instead of hurrying to the courthouse to file for divorce when you have unresolved issues, mediation might be a less contentious and cheaper way to divorce.
Divorcing spouses can choose to mediate on their own with a private mediator. Some states' laws require divorcing spouses to attempt mediation while a divorce is pending in court. This is known as "court-ordered mediation." Indiana judges have the power to require parties to mediate. (Ind. Code § 31-15-9.4-1 (2021).)
In mediation, both spouses meet with a trained and neutral third party called a "mediator." Mediation sessions are confidential, and each spouse will have the opportunity to list their issues and suggest resolutions. The mediator will not make any decisions in the case—rather, a mediator's job is to guide the negotiations in a way that will help the spouses settle their divorce without court intervention.
If you agree on some or all of the issues during the mediation, the mediator can draft a divorce settlement agreement for you to present to the court.
Any remaining issues that you and your spouse can't agree on will be decided by the court. Even if you're able to agree on one or two issues, mediation is usually much less expensive than going through a complete divorce trial, and can help you and your spouse create a foundation for continuing communication after your divorce.
Indiana courts will issue a final divorce decree after the 60-day waiting period has passed and all issues have been decided (either by the parties or by the judge).
An Indiana divorce is final when the judge signs and the court enters a divorce decree. The date that the divorce decree is signed and entered is known as the "effective date" of your divorce—the day you become officially divorced.
The court will likely provide you with a copy of your final divorce decree. If you need a copy of your divorce decree later, you must contact the clerk's office in the court that finalized your divorce.