Indiana is a no-fault divorce state, which means that, unlike in prior decades, divorcing couples are no longer required to provide evidence of wrongdoing in order to dissolve a marriage. Instead, divorcing couples need only agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken. While this change from a fault-based approach has reduced the level of conflict and contention during divorce proceedings, dissolving a marriage remains a complex process, as the parties must still contend with a host of complicated legal issues, such as the division of marital property.
Although no longer required to prove fault in order to obtain a divorce, Indiana couples who wish to dissolve their marriages must resolve a number of other legal matters, the most complicated of which is often property division. In Indiana, all of a couple’s marital property must be divided equitably upon divorce. Generally, courts presume that an equal division of assets is the fairest solution for both parties and only deviate from this standard when there is evidence that a 50/50 split would not be reasonable or just. In these cases, courts assess a number of factors when determining what would qualify as a fair division, including both parties’ incomes and earning ability.
It is important to remember that Indiana’s equitable division rules only apply to marital property or assets that were acquired by either spouse during the marriage (with the exception of an inheritance). Separate property, or assets that were purchased or received before the marriage took place, on the other hand, will remain in the possession of the original owner unless one of the parties can prove that the separate property has become so commingled with marital property as to become indistinguishable.
Couples who have children and later decide to get divorced are usually encouraged to come up with a parenting plan on their own in an out-of-court setting. To be valid, these agreements must include a division of parenting time or the time that a parent is able to physically be with his or her child, and an explanation of how responsibility for parental decision-making will be shared.
Generally, courts presume that encouraging frequent contact with both parents and allowing both parties to have an equal say in important parenting decisions is in a child’s best interests. If, however, there is evidence to the contrary, a court could impose a different arrangement, but will only do so after assessing a variety of factors, including the child’s adjustment to his or her school and home and whether the parents have showed a willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent.
In addition to property division, all divorcing couples must determine whether one party will be required to pay spousal maintenance to the other. In the event that a premarital agreement does not account for these payments and a couple cannot come to an agreement, the court can step in and make a decision on the parties’ behalf. When determining the amount, form, and duration of these payments, a court will look at the parties’ incomes and assets, both parties’ earning abilities, and the length of the marriage.
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