The division of property can be the most crucial decree issued in a divorce. You get only one shot at getting the best decision on the allocation of assets – there is no chance at modification later, save the slim chance of a successful appeal. You want to keep the property you feel is clearly yours, but in Indiana that may not be the final result.
Indiana is mostly a “no-fault” state for the potential grounds for a divorce. There are a few “fault” bases, including a spouse’s felony conviction or impotence. However, most divorces in the state proceed under the no-fault standard of an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Although most parties hope for an uncontested divorce, meaning that there is agreement on the issues to be decided, there are many divorces that are contested. In a contested divorce, the parties disagree on at least one issue, and if negotiations or mediation are unsuccessful, the decision will ultimately be left to the court.
Indiana is known as an “equitable distribution” state for property division in a divorce. The couple’s property is not always split down the middle – rather, it is divided based on what is “just and reasonable.” This could mean that one spouse ends up with more than 50 percent of the property, although courts usually start with the presumption that a 50/50 split is the most reasonable and equitable outcome. Although Indiana distinguishes between marital property acquired during the marriage and separate property acquired before marriage, the courts may still divide all property regardless of when it was obtained. This would include a home or any other real estate owned solely in the name of one spouse.
Influencing an Equitable Division
Although there is a beginning presumption of a 50/50 split, the goal is to reach a just and reasonable division of the marital property. In doing so, each spouse may attempt to rebut the presumption. A spouse could show how and why it is important to note that property, such as the family home, was acquired prior to the marriage, such as through an inheritance or individual purchase. A spouse could argue that the other spouse’s higher income justifies a deviation in the presumed division of assets. Or, a spouse’s conduct regarding certain assets, such as specifically acknowledging who the house belongs to, could justify an award that would deviate from the 50/50 presumption.
Once the parties have exhausted all attempts to influence the decision, the court will issue a final property division decree. Unlike child support or alimony, the property division order is final and not subject to modification. However, if one party believes that the court has decided wrongly, she can file an appeal. But a court’s decision on property division is rarely overturned, because the party filing the appeal must show that the trial court applied the law incorrectly during the decision-making process – a difficult task.