Friday, February 16, 2007

A quick outline of Indiana divorce law

Generally, there are three steps to a divorce case. First, file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Second, attend the provisional hearing. Lastly, there is the Final Hearing. No divorce can be granted before 60 days after filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Each case is unique. Divorce always deals with dividing property and debts. Other matters depend on if there are children or not. Again generally, courts divide the property and debts on a 50-50 basis. Custody always depends on the best interests of the child.

Between the provisional hearing and the Final Hearing, there may be settlement negotiations, mediation and discovery. The facts of this case are unique, and how the law applies to your facts is unique. The court interprets the “fit” between our facts and the law. That means the judge might not see things our way if you go to trial. That is why there may be settlement negotiations. Remember the phrase, a bird in the hand is better than two in a bush? That thinking applies directly to settlement. You and your attorney will weigh the costs of settling the case versus taking it to trial -- costs in money, time, energy, stress, and what litigation might do to the relationship you have with the other person (your ongoing relationship is especially important if you are parenting children together). You and your attorney will weigh the benefits of settling on a sure thing versus taking a chance for more in court, bearing in mind that the judge might rule against you. If the parties can settle all matters, then there is no need for a Final Hearing. The settlement agreement becomes your Decree of Dissolution signed off by the judge in your case.

Some counties require mediation. Instead of a judge, you and your attorney appear in front of a mediator and the mediator works everyone towards a settlement. Then the parties ask the Court to adopt the agreement and convert it to an order. Mediation requires additional costs because the mediator must be paid. If successful, mediation means no final hearing. The mediation agreement becomes your Decree of Dissolution signed off by the judge in your case.

Discovery is the process where one side gets information from the other side and they get information from your side. Both sides engage in discovery because the lawyers want all the information possible before we go into court.

Then we get to the conclusion, the Final Hearing. Settlement failed, mediation was not required or was unsuccessful, and so now the issues in your case go to the judge for a decision. The judge makes a decision which he puts into a Decree of Dissolution.

No comments: