Does it Matter who Files for Divorce First in Indiana?

There are no legal implications for the person who files for divorce first in Indiana. However, there are strategic advantages and disadvantages to filing for divorce first.

The stipulations set out in your divorce decree are legally binding, such as those involving child support, spousal support, property division, and child custody, and can have a big impact on the quality of your life post-divorce. Therefore, it is important to have professional legal counsel from the beginning. You may wish to seek a free consultation with a family law firm before you even file for divorce.

At WSM, we are dedicated to helping women navigate divorce in Indiana and Ohio. We take a holistic approach to family law and are able to offer both skilled mediation and fierce litigation, depending on the needs of your individual case. We are able to tackle even the most complex cases, such as those involving complex custody matters, high-value assets, cross-country parenting, high-conflict divorce and more.

We believe that the first step in any divorce case involves empowering women with knowledge about their rights. We always keep our clients informed so that they can make decisions from a place of clarity.

Contact our divorce law firm today at 380-212-3731 to arrange a free consultation with an Indianapolis divorce attorney.

Divorce Terminology

Indiana divorce laws can be complex and filed with legal terminology that can be difficult to understand. We aim to make it simple so that you can know exactly where you stand. First, it is beneficial to know some key pieces of terminology.

  • The Petitioner – The person who files for divorce first.
  • The Respondent – The person who responds.
  • Divorce Petition – The document which initiates the divorce process.

Implications of Filing for Divorce First in Indiana

Although Indiana divorce law is the same regardless of who files for divorce first, in practical terms, it can make a difference. In rare cases where there are no contested issues, the divorce is straightforward, and there are no children involved, then it doesn’t really matter who files for divorce first.

However, in a contested divorce, meaning that there are some key issues that you disagree on, then filing for divorce first can have some advantages.

It is important to note that if you are choosing to file for an uncontested divorce, then you should do so with care. It is often still beneficial to seek a free consultation with a divorce attorney for women to make sure your rights are protected.

Setting the Tone

Making the first move gives you an opportunity to try and set the tone for the divorce process. If you are hoping to minimize conflict and utilize mediation as much as possible to minimize court involvement and come to your own arrangements, then filing first could help you achieve that.

More Time to Prepare Your Divorce Strategy

The petitioner has more time to prepare their strategy. You may begin working with an Indianapolis divorce attorney before you file and can plan ahead. For example, if you believe that your spouse is hiding assets, then your attorney can begin finding evidence of them.

You Can Allege Fault

Most divorces in Indiana are no-fault, which means that spouses separate on the terms of insupportability. However, if you believe that your spouse was at-fault, for example, if they were abusive or adulterous, then you can make this clear at the beginning.

If you file for an at-fault divorce, then you will need evidence. If successful, then the court will consider your experiences when making key decisions such as those involving child custody. An attorney can help you decide which type of divorce makes sense for your case and will advise you about how to evidence your claims.

Choosing Whether to Speak First in Court

The petitioner has the right to decide whether they want to speak first at trials and hearings. This will give you more options when formulating your divorce strategy with the help of your attorney. If you speak first, you can present your side and frame the argument, but speaking last will give you the opportunity to respond to your ex’s arguments, and you will have the final say.

It Could Help You Have More Control Over The Situation

If you and your ex-spouse disagree about who should be the primary caregiver of your children, or if your spouse is abusive or you can’t trust them with money or property that belongs to you, then filing first can give you some control over the situation.

You can file for temporary orders, which could be designed to do various things, such as keeping them away from you and your children, giving you temporary custody, or stopping them from making monetary decisions while the divorce is in progress.

At WSM, we offer a free continuation where we can help you determine whether temporary orders could benefit your case and how we can achieve them.

It Could Help Protect You From Abuse

Although it has its limitation, Indiana law is designed to protect the most vulnerable. If you are a victim of abuse, then you should contact WSM as soon as possible. Our dedication to women gives us a unique ability to support them and create a safe space for them to share their experiences.

If you need to, then you can keep your spouse unaware of your plans to file for divorce until the last moment, and you can file for a protection order to keep them away from you. This will allow you to move forward from a place of clarity and will help protect you and your children.

Choosing Where You File For Divorce

As the petitioner, you can decide which county to file for divorce in. You must choose a county where either you or your ex-spouse have lived for the last 90 days. If you and your ex-spouse have been living in separate counties, then it may be beneficial for you to file where you live so that you won’t have to travel as far to attend court proceedings.

On the other hand, there could be some strategic advantages to filing for divorce in your ex-spouse’s county. A divorce lawyer for women can help you formulate a strategy and make decisions that will benefit you.

You Choose The Date of Separation

If you and your spouse already live separately with no hope of reconciliation, then this potential benefit won’t apply to you. However, if you still live together, then the Judge may consider the date your petition is filed to be the date of separation.

The separation date could have implications for how your property is divided, as any assets attained by either party while they were married and prior to the separation date are considered marital property and are is subject to division.

First Choice of Attorney

If your ex-spouse interviews an attorney, even if they do not end up being represented by them, that attorney cannot represent you from that point onwards. It is considered unethical and is against the rules of professional conduct set by most State Bar Associations.

It could be possible for someone to interview lots of attorneys to prevent their ex-spouse from finding a good attorney. This is unfair and not recommended, but if you believe that your spouse could be capable of this, then you may need to act quickly.

The First Opportunity to Request Temporary Orders

The divorce process can be lengthy, especially in cases where there are a lot of contested issues. Often couples need guidance on key issues while they wait for their divorce to be finalized, such as who will lie in the family home and who will be the custodial parent.

The Judge may issue temporary orders which will place obligations on separating spouses for a specified amount of time, usually up until the divorce is finalized.

As the petitioner, you will have the first opportunity to request temporary orders, which means that you will have more time to prepare with your attorney. There will then be a hearing so that the Judge can make their decision.

Although the outcome of temporary orders is not permanent, it could influence the final decision. The Judge is required to make decisions that are in the child’s best interest, and where possible, they will look to minimize disruption to their life.

What If My Spouse Has Filed For Divorce Already?

Although there may be advantages to filing for divorce first, you should not panic if your spouse has already filed. The Judge will evaluate both sides fairly, and you will still have the opportunity to work with an attorney and argue your case.

However, it is beneficial to act quickly to hire an attorney, develop your strategy and catch up with your spouse.

Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First in Indiana

There are many potential advantages to filing for divorce first, but there are also some potential disadvantages, such as:

Filing First May Harm Your Relationship

If you and your ex-spouse still have a good relationship, then surprising them with divorce papers could create a lot of conflicts. You may still have a long journey ahead with them, and if you have children, then they will likely be in your life forever. Therefore, keeping things amicable where possible is the best option.

Keeping things amicable not only makes your life and the lives of your children easier, it could also help your divorce move forward quicker and cheaper. Each contested issue requires a different court hearing which is time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, mediating your difference where possible is best.

You may still want to file for divorce first, but you may decide to speak with your spouse face-to-face first. Although this may give you less time to prepare, promoting a healthy and happy future for you and your family is paramount.

You May Need To Pay The Filing Fee

Divorce carries inescapable costs, and as the petitioner, you will need to cover the first expense, which is the filing fee. Filing fees vary by county, but in Indiana, most are under $200; there may also be additional fees, such as the cost of serving your spouse the divorce papers. If you can’t afford to pay, then you could apply for a fee waiver.

As the petitioner, your strategy may also help move the divorce process along quicker, which may save you money. However, if the advantages don’t apply to you, you may let your spouse file first, or you may negotiate to split the fee with them.

You Show Your Intentions

The petitioner files the first document, called the Complaint for Divorce. In this document, you will need to state what you want, and you will also have the opportunity to assign fault. These papers are then served to the respondent.

If you file first, your spouse will have a lot of information about your strategy and demands, this gives them the opportunity to develop their own strategy.

This makes how you file important, divorce is a negotiation, and so you will usually want to ask for more than you want in the beginning and let your spouse negotiate for less. Once you have specified what you want, it is difficult to as for more. However, if you ask for too much, it could create conflict. Your attorney will help you with your divorce papers and help protect your rights and interests.

What is the Divorce Process in Indiana?

In accordance with divorce laws in Indiana, the divorce process follows these steps:

  • Filing the Divorce Petition – The petitioner files an Original Petition for Divorce and accompanying documents. These are filed with the court clerk of the county where one spouse has lived for the last 90 days.
  • Serving the Divorce Papers – The divorce papers will then be served to the respondent.
  • Answering the Divorce Petition – The respondent has 20 days to file an Answer.
  • Temporary Orders – Either spouse can ask for temporary orders, or the Judge may create them independently if they deem it necessary.
  • Financial Disclosures – Once an Answer has been filed, spouses need to exchange specific documents about their assets.
  • Finalizing an Uncontested Divorce – If spouses agree on all issues, then they can sign a Final Decree of Divorce. After a mandatory waiting period, the court will schedule a hearing where everything will be reviewed by a Judge and finalized. The settlement agreement will then become legally binding.
  • Finalizing a Contested Divorce – If there are contested issues, then the divorce will go through a Discovery Stage where each spouse collects evidence for their claims. There will usually be a lot of mediation and court hearings. The couple may mediate an agreement with the help of an attorney, but if there are issues that still can’t be agreed upon, then a Judge will need to make the final decisions. In the final hearing, the divorce will be finalized and the divorce decree issued.

How to Find the Best Divorce Attorney For Women

If you are considering filing for divorce, it is good to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Having advice, support, and guidance from the beginning could make a big difference.

It is a good idea to find a local attorney who has an in-depth understanding of the state and federal laws related to your case. A local attorney is also likely to have worked with the Judge overseeing your case before and can tailor their strategy.

It is also a good sign when a law firm narrows its focus to one area of law, such as family law, as it means that they help people like you every day and have lots of experience and resources to draw upon.

It is important that your Indianapolis divorce attorney is highly trained in mediation and prioritizes it where possible. Mediation not only saves time and money, it also protects relationships. That being said, they should also be a fierce litigator and prepared to stand for you in front of a Judge. If your ex-spouse’s attorney is willing to go to court, and yours isn’t, then you could be left vulnerable.

Divorce is a highly emotional and stressful time, and it is important that you feel supported by your attorney and are able to speak with them openly. They should keep you informed about your case and be prompt in answering your questions.

At WSM, we represent women through family law matters exclusively, we are proud of the level of support we offer our clients and our personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship. We are experienced mediators and litigators and are prepared to handle complex cases such as those involving custody battles, high conflict, and high assets.

Does it Matter who Files For Divorce First in Indiana? FAQ.

Not necessarily; custody decisions are not a factor when determining custody. The Judge is required to make their decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child.

No, only one spouse files for divorce. If you are unsure whether to file for divorce first then you should arrange a free consultation so that an attorney can advise you about your next steps.

Generally, each spouse is required to cover their own legal fees. However, if your spouse has a significantly higher income than you, then you may be able to have your expenses reimbursed/

Contact a Divorce Lawyer For Women Today

WSM represents women exclusively; this gives us a unique ability to meet women’s needs. The goal of our law firm is to empower you with knowledge of your rights and for you to feel confident about your life post-divorce.

Contact our law office today at 380-212-3731 to schedule a free consultation.

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