Legal Seperation

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             Legal separation under Indiana law is available when the conditions or circumstances of the marriage make it currently intolerable for the spouses to continue to live together and the court makes a finding that the marriage should be maintained.

             A legal separation is commenced by the filing of a Verified Petition for Legal Separation. Like a divorce, the filing spouse in a legal separation is known as the “Petitioner” and the other spouse is known as the “Respondent”. A filing fee must be paid to the Clerk of the Court when the case is filed.

             The same residency requirements applicable to a divorce case apply to a legal separation case. A legal separation case cannot be filed if a divorce case involving the same parties has already been filed. Furthermore, a legal separation case can be converted to a divorce case if the Respondent spouse files a Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the legal separation at any time prior to the legal separation being finalized.

             Like a divorce, provisional hearings in a legal separation are generally held within three (3) weeks of the date of filing to consider issues of custody, support, temporary maintenance, parenting time, and use and possession of marital property, and payment of marital bills. The Provisional Order entered generally remains in effect until a Decree of Legal Separation is entered at the conclusion of a legal separation case.  

             The same criteria used in a divorce case to determine physical custody of children apply to a legal separation, and joint legal custody of children is also available in a legal separation. The Indiana Child Support Guidelines, and the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, both of which are utilized in divorce cases, are equally applicable to legal separation cases.

             A legal separation case is concluded when a Decree of Legal Separation is entered. Like a divorce decree, the Decree of Legal Separation addresses all pertinent issues in the case, which depending on the circumstances of the case may include custody, support, temporary maintenance, parenting time, use and possession of marital property, and payment of marital bills. Unlike a divorce decree, and significantly, a Decree of Legal Separation does not terminate the marriage, nor does it make any final and permanent adjudication of the property interests of the parties. A Decree of Legal Separation cannot by law be in effect for more than one (1) year, and then it simply becomes null and void.   

             The same two (2) courts in Porter County that handle divorce cases also handle legal separation cases. Therefore, a legal separation case will likely be heard by either Katherine R. Forbes or James A. Johnson.


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Last modified: 03/25/13