Couples who wish to divorce may file their petition in Indiana state court; however, due to the pandemic, it is highly likely that the finalization process will take longer than it otherwise would for a number of reasons. For example, Indiana state courts suspended all operations for approximately three months. Therefore, there is a significant backlog of trials, hearings, and motions for all types of cases, not just divorce. The court will be playing catch up for the next few months, which will delay divorce proceedings.
Indiana state courts were closed for nearly three months. During that time the court cleared its dockets and was unable to process new matters. Therefore, the court is dealing with a backlog in three ways: (1) it needs to hear all the trials, hearings, and motions that were scheduled during those three months, (2) it also needs to process all the other matters that were scheduled to be heard after those matters; and (3) it needs to process new matters. As a result, matters are taking significantly longer to be heard than they ordinarily would.
The court ordered judges to prioritize cases that involve health, safety, the emotional well-being of children, domestic violence, and other serious cases dealing with health and/or safety.
Divorcing couples in Indiana can avoid delays if they are able to come to an agreement outside of court. The Courts proposed a triage procedure recommending to parties that even agreeing to some issues can help resolve their cases more quickly.
- Cases in which there is a partial or total agreement
- The parties may benefit from a legal assistance organization
- Mediation may resolve the issue
- Referral to counseling; and
- Cases involving high-conflict.
The courts are directing parties to attempt to resolve their divorce using informal procedures, such as mediation and or counseling. Couples must resolve two issues: (1) how to divide the marital property and (2) child-related issues such as custody, parenting time, and child support. However, due to COVID, resolving issues such as custody and parenting time is even more complicated. For example, it is unclear when and how schools will open. Another issue involves parents’ potential exposure to COVID and how that could affect parenting time.