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June 27, 2022
Family Law: Frequently Asked Questions
Considering Divorce? Here is What to Expect
Below is a list of frequently asked questions to assist you, however, you will need to consult with an attorney to get information specific to you and your divorce. Call VanLeeuwen Law, LLC today to set up a consultation. We are with you every step of the way!
How long will this process take?
Once a petition for dissolution is filed there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period prior to the acceptance of any final agreement or set of a final hearing. 60 days is the shortest timeline and yet, some divorces can be dragged on for a long time. The timeline depends on the parties’ cooperation and the issues to be resolved. There is no “typical” divorce, as every person’s relationship is unique. However, the majority of divorces are resolved in six months to a year.
How do I file for divorce?
A Petition for Dissolution is what begins the divorce process. The Petition informs the court (and your spouse) of your intent to get divorced. The Petition lays out basic information about your marriage and lets the court know the outcome you are seeking from this process. It also starts the timeline for getting a divorce.
What is discovery and what has to be discovered?
Discovery is a formal process in which you and your spouse disclose information to each other through your attorneys to make sure that all issues can be worked out fairly with all information on the table. Unfortunately for the trees, divorce proceedings require a lot of paperwork to prove to the court each spouse's assets, liabilities, income, and other facts and figures depending on your situation. Some suggestions for paperwork to get your hands on when preparing for divorce are:
Your last ten pay stubs
W2’s and tax refund documents for the last three years
Current bank statements, investment statements
Information about your marital home (mortgage balance, appraisal if available, etc)
Information about your vehicle(s) (title, the amount owed, payments, etc)
Health insurance information
Debt statements (medical invoices, credit card statements, etc)
Any relevant medical records
Cooperation v. Mediation v. Litigation
There are three main pathways that you can take on your way from petition to final dissolution: negotiation, mediation, and litigation. Negotiation is the process of working with your spouse to form an agreement to resolve all legal issues in the divorce. The majority of cases follow this route. Mediation is similar to negotiation, except a neutral third party attempts to help you and your spouse reach an agreement on the issues. Some counties require mediation prior to setting the case for litigation. Lastly, litigation is the process of resolving your issues in court through hearings and trials. These pathways are not mutually exclusive and oftentimes parties switch from one to another if they don’t think that something is working. What path(s) you take depends on your situation and what you think will get you the best end result.
What the heck is marital property?
When granting a divorce, the court must divide marital property between the parties. A court may sign off on an agreement between parties that they have created themselves or through their attorneys that fairly distributes property. Or a court may make a determination of what a fair distribution of the property is. Marital property includes things such as real estate (i.e. the marital home), personal property, retirement accounts, and various debts that existed during the marriage. It is not an automatic disqualifier if something is only in one person’s name. While some exceptions exist, courts will throw all these things together into a ‘marital pot’ and then divide that pot fairly between the parties. In Indiana, there is a presumption of equal division 50/50. Talk to an attorney about what assets and debts you have and when the outcomes may be.
Are there kids involved?
Custody – It’s not one concept.
Legal Custody: Legal custody is the power to make decisions for your children. Decision-making can include education, religion, and healthcare. Legal custody is often joint—with both parents making decisions for their children—but can also be sole where one parent makes decisions.
Physical Custody: Physical custody is, simply, who the child lives with most of the time. The parent who the child lives with is considered the ‘custodial parent’, with the other parent being considered the ‘noncustodial parent.’
When will I see my children?
Parenting Time Schedule: Once custody is decided, it can be important to have a set schedule for parenting time between the children and the parents. Indiana courts typically follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines when deciding on a parenting time schedule unless the parties agree otherwise. Many families create their own parenting time schedule that is more customizable to their life and work schedules. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines lay out suggested parenting time schedules for various ages and related issues such as holiday parenting time, communications, and transportation. The Guidelines can be found at: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/parenting/.
What am I looking at for Child Support?
Child Support: Similar to parenting time, child support in Indiana is based upon certain rules and guidelines. Indiana courts determine child support using a child support calculator that considers things such as the income of each parent, parenting time schedule, health care costs, daycare costs, prior or subsequent children, etc. to determine who should pay child support and how much they should pay. A child support calculation is purely MATH and does not include outside influences beyond those mentioned above to the generated number. The calculator is very particular, so have someone with Child Support experience assist you in creating your calculation. Indiana’s Child Support Calculator can be found at: http://mycourts.in.gov/csc/parents/.
Don’t put the kid in the middle!
Courts don’t like it, kids don’t like it, your attorney won’t like it, and it won’t make the process any easier. It is natural to want to make sure “you are doing right by the kids.” Parties often want to ask the child for their input and opinion. However, this is not appropriate nor helpful in a divorce proceeding. Courts generally do not want to hear from the child. In Indiana, the age is 14 years old, for when a court will even contemplate hearing from the child. There are formal processes, such as a Guardian Ad Litem, for when there are serious concerns or if a neutral third party is necessary to “represent the child’s interests” when it comes to custody.
Social Media Warning
Divorce can be contentious and can bring out the ugly in some people. Social media is not the proper platform to express your anger, frustrations, sorrow, or hate. Social media posts are admissible evidence in a divorce proceeding. These can have a serious impact on the outcome of your case. Please think before you click: “Would I want a judge to read this?”
Every attorney wants to do best by their clients, maximizing the clients “bang for their buck” while providing quality legal work.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions to assist you, however you will need to consult with an attorney to get information specific to you and your divorce.