Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal termination of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states generally grant divorces because forcing a couple to stay married would be against public policy. In Indiana, a divorce is known as “dissolution.”
"No-fault" and "fault" are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for a divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only suitable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. Other states, including Indiana, allow the parties to choose either a no-fault or a fault divorce. Lawyers.com gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the state of Indiana.
The United States first adopted the concept of no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all states currently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, each other for the divorce. Some examples of the bases for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.”
In the state of Indiana, the no-fault justification for a divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Indiana no-fault divorce guidelines require that at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. Divorce proceedings begin in Indiana when one of the spouses files a petition for dissolution of marriage with the appropriate superior court, circuit court, or domestic relations court.
Many states require a "cooling-off" period of separation for a specific period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. The duration of the waiting period in Indiana is 60 days.
If the spouses enter into a written agreement that there should be a divorce, the marriage can be ended as early as 60 days after divorce papers are filed. The matter may also be continued for 45 days if there is a possibility of reconciliation. After 45 days, the judge may enter a divorce decree upon request of the parties; if no request is made within 90 days, the matter may be dismissed.
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds may include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. The fault grounds for divorce in Indiana are a felony conviction of one of the spouses subsequent to the marriage, impotence at the time of the marriage, and an incurable mental illness lasting at least two years. For a complete text of the Indiana divorce code, see Indiana.gov.
Divorce laws vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Indiana, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of an Indiana Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.