How to File for a Legal Separation in Indiana

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Indiana allows married couples to apply for legal separation by filing the appropriate court documents with your county clerk's office. Once you've paid the ascribed filing fees, your petition for legal separation and the summons notifying your spouse of your intentions will enter the court system. In the end, the separation order issued by the court will provide for marital support payments and determine matters of child custody, child support and visitation rights, just like a divorce. But unlike a divorce, you're not free to remarry.

Grounds for Separation

Either spouse may file for legal separation. A least one spouse must have been a resident of Indiana for six months and one or both must have resided in the filing county for three months. Before granting legal separation, an Indiana court must find that the circumstances of your situation are currently so intolerable you can't live together but that reasons exist to maintain the marriage contract.

Beginning the Separation Process

Before filing any legal documents with the court, consider talking to a qualified attorney in Indiana. Legal separations can be complex, especially when there are children or extensive assets involved, and may require the expertise of a licensed lawyer. Even if you decide to file pro se (representing yourself), you can still talk to an attorney to get some practical advice.

Read More: Legal Separation Vs. Divorce in Indiana

Drafting a Petition for Legal Separation

Indiana Code § 31-15-3-4 requires all separation petitions to be titled: "In Re the legal separation of (spouse's name) and (spouse's name). The petition must also include specific information such as where the spouses live, when the spouses were married, the date when they separated, the names and addresses of any children, the grounds for the separation and the kind of relief sought. You must also explain why you believe you and your spouse can no longer live together.

All petitions for separation must be signed and verified by the petitioner. You can verify the petition by signing it in the presence of a licensed Indiana notary public and taking an oath that the information contained within it is true.

Drafting the Summons

The petitioner must notify the spouse that the separation petition has been filed. This is done through the use of a summons. The summons names the opposing party, their address and their contact information so an official copy of the petition can be mailed or delivered to them. Contact your local county courthouse and talk to the clerk's office regarding the appropriate forms to use.

Filing the Petition

After your petition and summons are prepared, you must file them with the county clerk's office. You'll have to pay a filing fee. The amount can vary by county and according to how you wish to deliver the paperwork to your spouse. They may be sent via certified mail or served in person by the local sheriff's department. Contact the clerk's office before you go to the courthouse for information regarding the fees and acceptable payment methods.