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Indiana Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Indiana

A legal separation allows a married couple to live apart while they decide to stay married or to divorce; it does not end a marriage. A divorce, also known in Indiana as a "dissolution of marriage," ends a marriage. Couples who are legally separated are still married; after a divorce, the partners are single again. Thus, legal separation and divorce serve two separate functions.

To grant a legal separation, an Indiana court must find that conditions in the marriage are currently so intolerable that the couple cannot live together, but the marriage itself should nevertheless be maintained.

A legal separation is not required before filing for divorce in Indiana, but a period of legal separation in which the couple is unable to reconcile may help the court determine an "irretrievable breakdown" has occurred.

A legal separation decree Includes the terms and conditions of spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation and restraining orders. The court considers these issues if one of the spouses petitions it to do so. Any support, custody or visitation granted cannot last longer than the legal separation itself, and the legal separation lasts no more than one year and only as long as neither spouse files for divorce. After one year, the couple must decide whether they plan to stay married or seek a divorce.

The couple are still married even if they are living apart. Debts incurred by the couple are their responsibility, and they must try to work together to mend the marriage. Either spouse may ask the court to order counseling, but the court cannot order counseling against either spouse's will or if one spouse has been abusive toward the other or toward the children. Legally separated spouses may file for divorce before the one-year limit on legal separation. A legal separation offers a "cooling-off" period before either spouse moves toward divorce. During a legal separation, the court enters temporary orders for child support, child custody, spousal support and counseling, if the couple should need court supervision of any of these decisions. Legal separation also allows one spouse to remain on the other's health or life insurance policies. A legal separation is not required if spouses want to live apart, but it can ease the process by providing legal support for the couple's decisions.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.

Complaint

In Indiana the petition for a legal separation is titled: "In re the Legal Separation of [Person 1] and [Person 2]." It includes the names and addresses of each spouse; the length of residency in Indiana and the county; the date of marriage and the date of separation; the names, ages and addresses of all children under 21 and all incapacitated children; whether the wife is pregnant; the grounds for legal separation; and the relief sought.

Grounds

According to the Indiana Code 31-15-3-3, the grounds required for a legal separation are (1) that conditions in or circumstances of the marriage make it currently intolerable for both parties to live together; and (2) that the marriage should be maintained.

Residency

Either spouse may file for legal separation in Indiana. One of the spouses must be a resident of Indiana for at least six months and one of the spouses must have been a resident of the county where the petition is filed for at least 3 months. A person may not file for legal separation if his spouse has already filed for divorce.

Procedure

A copy of the petition is served on the other spouse when the petition is filed.

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