In Indiana, it is not legally possible for a couple to file a joint petition for divorce. However, there are many ways two spouses can cooperate to expedite and minimize the expense of their separation. The best course of action is for both parties to consent to a divorce before one files a petition against the other. This will require drafting a document detailing how to handle issues including:
• Child custody arrangements
• Child support payments
• Alimony payments
• How to divide jointly owned property
• Payment of jointly incurred debts
• Visitation rights
Sometimes, though both parties act in good faith, they will not be able to reach an agreement. If the couple is committed to having a written separation document ready to submit to a judge, they may wish to consider trying the process of divorce mediation in Indiana. By undertaking this process, neither spouse is committing themselves to signing a document whose terms they do not agree with. Divorce mediation in Indiana is designed to enable both parties to have the fullest possible opportunity of resolving their differences between going to court but is not a legally binding process.
Undertaking this procedure privately will require couples to decide how to share the expense of working with a professional mediator. In many cases, this legal professional will not be an attorney but simply someone known as a “qualified neutral.” The role of this person is not to offer legal advice but to facilitate open and honest discussion. Should this person be an attorney, they cannot be hired by either spouse to represent them in court if negotiations fail.
Rules vary from county to county, but in many areas divorce mediation in Indiana will be mandated by a judge. This is especially likely in any cases involving disagreements over child custody or visitation rights for non-custodial parents. While a judge may order spouses to appear at a meeting which attempts to begin the process of divorce mediation in Indiana, neither party is legally obligated to continue attending these meetings if they find them unsatisfactory. Victims of domestic abuse will also be excused from this pretrial step.
The only constant of divorce mediation in Indiana is that none of the statements made during the meetings can be reported to a judge. Before the first session, a mediator may decide to call both spouses to discuss their hoped-for outcome and gather as much background as possible. In an initial court-ordered mediation ceremony, spouses may be required to present financial documents such as tax documents.
The format of any meeting conducted as part of divorce mediation in Indiana can be adjusted to reasonably accommodate both spouses. It may be desirable to have a co-mediator in attendance who specializes in an area such as mental health. If both spouses no longer reside in the same location, telephone conferences can be arranged. Regardless of the circumstances under which these meetings take place, both parties will be better prepared for a court date with a written agreement rather than hoping for a judge to rule in their favor.