Divorce: What Happens After the Petition for Dissolution is Filed?

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The Next Steps after a Dissolution Petition

It is important to know what to expect after a dissolution action has been filed.  Every situation is based on different facts, personalities, finances, and issues.   Those differences make it impossible for an attorney to predict the exact outcome or timeline of an individual case but there are basic guidelines that each dissolution follows.

Per Indiana Code, at least 60 days must pass from the time the dissolution action is filed to the date the decree is issued.   There is not a maximum amount of time from beginning to end.  At the time of filing, the Petitioner has the option of requesting a preliminary hearing date.  The main objective of a preliminary hearing is to determine the payment of marital debts and child support as well as to create a parenting time schedule.   The preliminary hearing is typically 15 or 30 minutes in length and is limited to issues that need to be resolved during the pendency of the divorce.   The amount of time that passes between the request and the hearing date depends largely on the schedule of the courts.  In busier counties, it could be 45 days before the hearing.  If the court is notified of issues that need to be addressed immediately, a hearing may be expedited.  If the parties can reach an agreement on all preliminary issues, the terms can be put into writing and signed by both parties.  Once reviewed by the court and signed, the agreement has the same effect as an order issued by a judge after a hearing.  Not every case involves a preliminary hearing or agreement.  If both parties are comfortable maintaining status quo or abiding by an informal agreement during the pendency, they may choose to focus on a final agreement or hearing rather than a temporary order.

The terms of the final decree will be determined either by agreement or a final hearing in court.   There are several different ways to obtain the final agreement.   In some cases, the parties are able to discuss the pending issues amongst themselves for write up by an attorney.  In other cases, the parties wish to remain amicable but need additional assistance.  Refer to previous blogs about Collaborative divorce and mediation as alternative options.   If an agreement is not possible, a final hearing will be necessary.  A final hearing can range from an hour duration to several days if there are multiple witnesses and extensive evidence to be submitted.

Prior to the final hearing, information about assets, debts and the best interests of the children will be gathered.   The parties can informally exchange information or a more formal process called discovery can be utilized.  If the parties can reach an agreement on all issues and execute a waiver of final hearing, the dissolution can be finalized without court.  It is possible for the divorce process to last for 60 days and never have a hearing.  On the other hand, divorce cases can become very contentious and last for several months or even years.  The timeline and total cost for each divorce are different and varies based on the facts, the demeanor of the parties, and the complexity of the issues to be resolved.

If you or someone you know has questions about what happens after a dissolution is filed, Banks & Brower, LLC can assist.  Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at info@banksbrower.com.