Even when a marriage is beyond repair, many individuals struggle to start the divorce process. After all, this is one of the most stressful, emotional life changes one can experience.

Knowing what to expect from the legal process of ending a marriage can prepare you to take the necessary steps for a fresh start.

Understanding the process

You should file for divorce in Indiana if you and/or your spouse has lived in the state for at least six months. Submit the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to the county Domestic Relations Court.

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, you can include a copy of the agreement or a statement indicating that neither party contests the divorce. In this case, the state will finalize the divorce within 60 days. Otherwise, you will receive notice of a hearing date where the judge will rule on contested items.

Dividing marital property

Indiana is an equitable division property state, which means that all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are marital property in a divorce. In most cases, the former spouses will split these items equally, although the judge may order a different arrangement depending on economic circumstances, tax consequences and other factors.

Establishing child custody and support

Indiana considers the child’s best interest when determining custody. Joint legal custody allows both parents to make important decisions that affect the child’s education, health and well-being.

One or both parents can receive physical custody of the child. Either way, the state strives to ensure that the child benefits from continued contact and a relationship with each parent through regular visitation whenever possible.

The court may order child support payments depending on the financial resources of each parent and the standard of living in each household. These payments will continue until the child turns 21 or 18 if he or she is no longer enrolled in school.

Although it can be tricky to resolve these contentious issues when a marriage ends, coming to an agreement can prevent a long, costly trial. Mediation services can help you and your former spouse come to terms and move forward with a successful co-parenting relationship.