A divorce is one of the most stressful and confusing times in a person‘s life.
Property, debt,assets and, of course, children are all weighing on a person’s mind during this emotional time and,unfortunately, many times we let our emotions dictate our decisions rather than clear and concise thought. Taylor Law Office is here to assist you during this stressful time with sound legal counsel, mediation and, when necessary, zealous representation in litigation. We have assisted people through the divorce process for more than fifteen years, and have found that no two divorces are the same. Our services are designed to meet the unique needs of each client, and help them navigate through a difficult situation.
Our priority is to provide excellent legal advice and representation with compassion and understanding. Taylor Law Office, P.C., understands the continuously evolving laws, trial rules and procedures that impact the divorce process. In addition to acting as an advocate and advisor for our clients, our staff understands the pressure felt by those involved in a divorce process and work to address your personal concerns. Together with our clients, we create a plan to ensure that we have a mutual understanding of the expectations, risks, and costs associated with divorce or other family changes. We make ourselves readily available to help our clients though all aspects of this process.
Our services include:
- Consultations and providing legal advice
- Preparation and filing of legal documents and pleadings
- Assertive negotiations on your behalf to resolve disputed issues
- Preparation and conducting of all pretrial discovery, including interrogatories, request for documents, depositions and valuations of the various assets
- Advocating on your behalf and presentation of your case in all pretrial motions, proceedings and, if necessary, at the time of trial prepare and counsel you on legal aspects of custody and parenting time (visitation) issues
- Assist you in considering legal issues and circumstances surrounding financial settlement
- Examine legal aspects of other issues directly related to divorce
Divorce, the Law and You
(Authored by T. Sandberg Durst and Lisa Shapson. Adapted and revised by Patti J. Taylor)
How should I select an attorney to represent me in my divorce?
In this age of specialization, no one attorney can be proficient in all areas of the law. In family law matters, as in any type of legal matter, you should seek an attorney who is qualified and experienced in your type of case.
You should feel free to question your prospective attorney as to his or her degree of experience in handling family law cases, and should also inquire as to the attorney’s general reputation and experience with other members of the community and related professionals.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the attorney you select should be someone with whom you feel comfortable and confident in discussing your family law issues.
What will the attorney discuss at the initial consultation?
In most cases, the attorney will discuss several topics, including: (A) the possibility of solving marital problems through counseling or mediation; (B) assistance to you as a parent in meeting the needs of your children; (C) separation from your spouse; (D) Legal Separation versus dissolving the marriage by divorce; (E) financial matters involving child support, spousal support, real estate, personal property, and debts; (F) general court procedures; (G) procedures in the attorney’s office for handling the case; and (H) financial arrangements for legal service and court costs.
What information will I be required to provide or obtain for my attorney?
Depending on the particular nature of your case, the attorney will ask you for various information including a history of your marriage or relationship, the current circumstances concerning where the parties and children reside, whether the parties have children from prior relationships, employment and income information, income tax returns, insurance information, employment benefits and pension plan information, an itemization of your assets and liabilities, an itemization of your budget or expenses, and other similar data. Most of this information will be requested on forms and paperwork Taylor Law Office, PC, will provide to you if you decide to retain the attorney.
How will I be charged for my attorney’s service?
The fee in the family law matter will be quoted to you in your initial consultation, and incorporated into a written fee agreement.
The fees you will be charged will normally be computed on an hourly rate, or a flat fee for certain tasks. When you decide to retain the attorney after the initial consultation, most attorneys will ask you sign a written fee agreement. The attorney fee agreement will require the payment of a deposit, set the hourly rate or flat fee, and will establish the method and amount of subsequent payments on account of total billings.
Taylor Law Office, P.C., determines the fees in a family law matter based upon the nature and the amount of work to be performed, and does not normally quote a flat or total fee at the onset of a case since it is difficult, if not impossible to determine at that time the amount of work which will be required. The decisions of the parties, and often opposing counsel, will determine how expensive the divorce process will be. Taylor Law Office, P.C., requires a security deposit that will be held in our Trust Account until the conclusion of your case. You will receive a billing statement each month detailing and itemizing the services provided, and the charges for those services. Payment is due upon receipt of your monthly statement.
What is a no-fault divorce?
No-Fault is the term that describes the concept that in order to dissolve a marriage, neither party is required to allege or prove who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage relationship. It requires that one of the parties state that there has occurred an irretrievable breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent that it cannot be restored. Some states attach special rules to a “no fault” divorce; Indiana does not do so. It does not necessarily mean that your divorce will proceed more quickly. Nor does it mean the case will not be contested on the issues of distribution of the assets, allocation of the debts, custody and parenting time with the children, spousal support, or child support, or, that you will not have to appear in court for the purpose of obtaining the Decree dissolving the marriage.
How Is the divorce started?
The attorney for the party seeking to begin the divorce process will file a formal document, called a “Petition” in Indiana, with the appropriate court. The Petition is required to include specific information. Indiana law also requires that a Summons be served upon the other party along with the Petition.
A copy of the Petition and Summons may be served on your spouse in different ways. Your spouse can simply sign the portion of the Summons that acknowledges they received it, the original of which should be filed with the court to prove service was made. The initial documents may be mailed by Certified Mail, served by sheriff, or served by a formal process server. In most cases it is best to avoid surprising your spouse with service by the sheriff, if it can be avoided.
What happens if my spouse will not agree to a divorce?
Under Indiana law, there is no requirement that your spouse agree to or “sign the papers for” any divorce. The only requirement is that one party states there has occurred an irretrievable breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent that it cannot be restored. There are two ways to finalize the divorce process: by agreement on the issues, or by an order of the court after a trial. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all of the issues, it must be reduced to writing and signed by the parties in order to be enforceable. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they must present evidence to the court and the Judge will resolve the issues.
What should I do if my spouse has filed for divorce?
You should consult an attorney immediately for advice as to the choices you can make and the consequences of your possible alternative actions. When you first contact the attorney, be sure to advise the attorneys’ staff if you have received notice of any court dates that have been set.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
The time needed to complete a divorce action depends on many factors including how many issues to be resolved, the degree to which you and your spouse can agree on the issues, and the backlog of cases in your particular county.
Your attorney can offer some general guidelines as to the time line but, generally, if both spouses have agreed upon all of the issues, a Decree dissolving the marriage can be entered as soon as sixty-one days after the petition is filed. If all or any aspect of the case are contested (that is, not agreed upon), a final decision can take much longer.
What happens while my case is pending?
During this time, the attorneys will gather and exchange information concerning all the various disputed issues.
A very important part of this process will be your obligation (and, correspondingly, your spouse’s obligation) to disclose and provide financial information and documentation.
After all of the relevant information has been gathered and exchanged, most attorneys will attempt to negotiate a written agreement as to custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, the division of marital property and debt, and other financial matters. These negotiations may be directly between the attorneys (with, of course, your knowledge and authorization), or in a series of meetings with your spouse and his or her attorney, or through mediation.
If an agreement is reached and signed by both parties, the agreement will then be submitted to the court for approval and incorporation into the final Judgment or Decree dissolving the marriage.
Will there be any temporary orders while my case is pending?
While your case is pending, there may be any number of matters which require a temporary order by the Court. These decisions are made after a written application (Motion) to the Court and, sometimes, supported by sworn statements (Affidavits) by you. If the parties are able to reach an agreement concerning how certain matters will be resolved on a temporary basis, the agreement should be reduced to writing, signed by the parties and attorneys, and signed by the Judge as a “Provisional Order.” If the parties cannot agree, a hearing will be set for the parties to present evidence and asking the Judge to resolve the issues.
Such temporary decisions may involve: (A) Temporary legal and physical custody of minor children; (B) Parenting time; (C) Temporary payments of child support and/or spousal support; (D) Determining who will live in or be removed from the home; (E) Temporary restraints to keep your spouse from interfering with you;(F) Limitations upon the disposal or transfer of property; (G) Determining who will get temporary possession and use of personal property; (H) Determining how marital debts will be paid; and (I) Any other matters which require prompt resolution.
The temporary order(s) will be in effect until the Court either makes a final determination of the case at the time of final hearing or alters the temporary order on the subsequent motions by you or your spouse.
Who Will Get Custody of the Children?
“Custody” is usually broken down into the categories of legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to who will make the major decisions affecting a child, including education, health care, religion, etc. Physical custody pertains to which parent is primarily responsible for the children on a daily basis.
The welfare of any minor children is of major concern to the Court, and neither parent is automatically entitled to custody of any children. The Judge may consider many factors such as the ages and sexes of the children, compatibility with each party, ability of the parent to care for the children, and the personal conduct of each parent. In the final analysis the decision will principally turn on the “best interests” of the children.
Will There Be Spousal Support? Child Support?
Spousal support and child support are two separate and distinct considerations.
Spousal support is the amount of support which you personally will receive or which you may have to pay for the support of your spouse.
Child support is the amount of support which is allocated to the children and their needs.
A. Spousal Support
Both the amount and duration of alimony may be an issue in your case. Spousal may be temporary (during the pendency of your case), for a fixed term of years depending upon the facts of your case, or permanent (until death or remarriage). There are three kinds of spousal maintenance: Incapacity maintenance for a spouse who cannot support him or herself, rehabilitative maintenance for a spouse who needs additional education or training before seeking a job, and caregiver maintenance for a spouse who must care for an incapacitated child.
B. Child Support:
Indiana, like every state, has Child Support Guidelines which, in the majority of cases will determine the amount of child support.
It is important to understand that spousal support/maintenance and child support vary greatly in their legal implications and tax ramifications; your attorney will explain these differences to you as your case progresses.
Who Will Get the Property or Assets of the Marriage?
Each spouse is entitled to an “equitable” share of the property and debts included in the marital estate. Indiana law presumes that an equal division of the marital property between parties is just and reasonable. A party may be able to overcome this presumption by presenting evidence that an equal division is not just and reasonable for various reasons, such as the contributions of each spouse in acquiring property, property was acquired prior to marriage or through inheritance or gift, the economic circumstances of each spouse when the marital estate is divided, the conduct of the parties during the marriage as it relates to the disposition of dissipation of property, and the earning ability of the parties as it relates to the final division of the marital estate.
Remember, equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a 50% – 50% division. Your attorney will review all of the assets and debts with you and make recommendations concerning the distribution of each depending upon factors affecting or concerning the asset and/or debt, and the overall case.
What Happens If My Spouse Is Abusive?
Unfortunately, in some instances a spouse may be physically abusive. In such a case, you should immediately contact your local police department to report the abuse. In appropriate cases, a protective order can be obtained.
Will I Be Able to Obtain Medical Insurance after My Divorce?
Yes, pursuant to a COBRA election, your spouse’s employer may be required to extend an option allowing you to buy coverage in your old policy. You should contact your former spouse’s Personnel or Human Resources Department immediately following your divorce to comply with the law’s strict time requirements.
Should I Consider Redrafting My Will?
Absolutely. A divorce will significantly affect the ownership of the marital assets and, perhaps, responsibility for your children. Subsequent to your divorce, you should discuss these issues with your attorney.
You may also want to revise your Power of Attorney and/or Designation of Health Care Representative.
Can I Resume My Maiden or Prior Name?
Yes, you should advise your attorney during your initial consultation that you wish to resume your maiden or prior name subsequent to the divorce. The name change must be placed in the Final Judgment of Divorce in order to be effective.
For help protecting your legal rights in divorce, contact the Taylor Law Office, P.C., to arrange for an initial consultation and evaluation of your case.