Indiana Family Law: An Overview
Just as state and federal law define and protect your individual rights, Indiana’s family laws define and protect the rights of each member of your family. Family law also regulates the legal proceedings for cases involving family issues like divorce, marital rights, adoption, alimony and more. Whether you have a concern about how ownership of marital property is divided or your visitation rights, Indiana’s family laws have the answers.
If you have a family law case in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette or elsewhere in Indiana, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Indiana Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. If you need help navigating the complex laws governing your case, an Indiana family law attorney can help and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.
Indiana Marriage Requirements
While it may seem logical that anyone can marry whomever they choose, Indiana prohibits certain parties from marrying for health and criminal reasons. If you or your spouse qualify as a prohibited party under Indiana law, your marriage and related rights therein will not be protected by law and you may be subject to applicable criminal charges.
Parties who are prohibited by Indiana law from marrying include:
- Parties under 18 years of age. However, parties aged 17 years old may marry after they receive written consent from a parent or guardian. Parties younger than 17 years old must obtain a court’s permission to marry.
- Parties who are related closer to their spouse than second cousins. First cousins may marry if they are both over 65 years old.
- Parties who are already married to a third, living party.
- Parties who cannot consent to marriage due to intoxication or a mental condition.
Indiana Marriage License
Before your wedding ceremony, you will need to apply for an Indiana marriage license. The license validates the legality of your marriage under Indiana law, which helps to prove your marital status when applying for family-specific benefits.
If you or your spouse is a resident of Indiana, you must apply at the Clerk’s Office in the county where you reside. If you are both applying from out of state, you must apply in the county where you will hold your wedding ceremony. Once you receive your license, you have 60 days to get married without a waiting period before the license expires.
Indiana Divorce Requirements
While in many states you must prove that your marriage ended because of your spouse’s misconduct, Indiana is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that a couple may file for divorce without claiming any fault of misconduct, which can benefit both spouses when considering child custody, support, alimony and marital property distribution. In a no-fault divorce, the court rules that the marriage suffered an irretrievable breakdown.
One spouse may still file a petition for divorce claiming the other spouse’s misconduct at fault, though. Indiana permits the following fault grounds:
- Either party was convicted of a felony after the marriage.
- The male party became impotent after the marriage.
- Either party has suffered from incurable insanity for at least two years.
To file for a divorce in Indiana, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for six months or longer.
Distribution of Marital Property in Indiana
If you get a divorce in Indiana, don’t assume that you’ll automatically get half of everything you and your spouse owned during the marriage. Unless you and your spouse agreed to divide your marital property in half, an Indiana court may award an uneven but fair percentage to both of you.
Indiana is considered an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that your marital property—everything you and your spouse owned jointly during the marriage except for personal gifts, inheritances, or property separately owner before the marriage—is distributed fairly based on certain factors. These factors include:
- Each party’s contribution to the acquisition and maintenance of the property.
- How long the marriage lasted.
- Each party’s health and economic circumstances during and after the divorce procedure.
- Child custody and support responsibilities.
- Spousal support (alimony) responsibilities.
When Do I Need an Indiana Family Law Attorney?
Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.
Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.
Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Indiana family law attorney if you have additional questions.