Divorce can be a contentious process, even if the decision is mutual. One of the most important steps in a divorce proceeding is the service of divorce papers; your spouse must sign these papers in order for the process to continue. However, if your spouse does not agree to sign these documents or completely fails to respond to a divorce request, the process can become even more difficult. You do have legal options to proceed with your divorce with the help of an Indianapolis divorce attorney, even in these situations.
Indiana’s Divorce Requirements
The Indiana divorce process can be lengthy, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. If you and your spouse have children or lots of shared assets, for example, your case may take longer to reach an agreement. However, all Indiana divorce cases begin with the same set of steps.
- First, you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with your county clerk’s office. You must have lived in your county of residence for at least three months, and in Indiana for at least six months.
- After filing, you must serve your spouse with copies of your petition and supporting documents. This process notifies your spouse that you have filed for divorce and he or she can either file an answer and/or counterclaim. You can serve divorce papers via certified mail, a private process server, or sheriff’s service.
- Once you serve your divorce papers to your spouse and he or she responds, you can proceed with mediation and trial.
Entering a Divorce by Default in Indiana
According to the Indiana divorce process, you cannot proceed with the dissolution of your marriage unless your spouse responds to your petition. If your spouse refuses to sign the papers, fails to respond, or hides from service, you will need to ask the court for assistance. If the court cannot locate your spouse, it will enter a judgement for a divorce by default.
By failing to respond to your petition or appear in court, your spouse essentially forfeits his or her right to have a say in the divorce proceeding. First, the court will attempt to contact your spouse to receive a response for your divorce papers. If the court cannot locate your spouse, it will set a hearing date and ask you and your spouse to appear.
At this hearing, the judge will review your divorce complaint and issue a ruling. Typically, spouses have the right to contest what appears in a divorce petition by filing a counterclaim after service. If your spouse does not provide a counterclaim, the judge will likely issue a ruling and divorce orders based on your petition alone. You will likely receive what you sought in your divorce complaint.
Speak to an Indiana Divorce Attorney
If you plan to file for divorce in Indiana, you need an attorney on your side. Hiring an Indiana divorce lawyer can provide several benefits to your case, especially if you are dealing with an uncooperative spouse.
Your attorney can help you create your Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage that outlines favorable terms, so that if the court enters a divorce by default, the outcome is likely to be in your best interest. Your lawyer also can represent you in mediation and in trial if your spouse does respond to your petition, advocating for your needs during each stage of your case.
To protect your rights and assets, contact an Indiana divorce attorney as soon as you decide to file for divorce.