In Indiana, like many other states, marriage and divorce rates are about equal. The differences are stark; marriage is generally a happy time where couples look forward to growing old together, having a family, and doing things that over time will weave most all aspects of life together.
Divorce, on the other hand, involves untangling assets and liabilities and often children, things that are not really divisible. If your case does not settle along the way1, the day will come that a final hearing becomes a reality in your case.2 There are three ways you can make the most of it for the betterment of your case and your life going forward:
The first way is to remember the cardinal rule that “first impressions are lasting impressions.” At this hearing, resist the urge to make faces, scribble furiously in dismay at what your soon-to-be ex is testifying about, mutter under your breath, or even blurt out terms like “liar” in open court. This may seem obvious, but every seasoned family law attorney has seen this, along with every trial court judge. A judge weighs what you are saying (or doing) in court against other factors that are laid out in statutes and case law. This can be a basis for an attorney fee award or contempt.3 Put your best foot forward and avoid this.
Second, be reasonable and remember the role of the court. Indiana, as with all other states, is a no-fault state. This means no matter how “bad” the mother or father of your children is, the court must look past this and divide the marital estate (assets minus liabilities) in a just and reasonable4 way and make custody orders in the best interest of the children.5 This is a judge’s constitutional charge. Therefore, there is nothing to be gained by defamatory statements, such as trying to testify about affairs. All such statements or behaviors can do is harm your position by making you appear unreasonable.
Finally, know what you want and why you want it. In the emotionally driven world of divorce trials, it is very easy to spend precious court time off-topic on testimony that is emotionally soothing, but is not relevant6 to inform the court of how and why it should decide the case under the parameters of the Divorce Act. If you want legal custody7 of your child(ren) because the other parent refuses to work with you to make major life decisions regarding the child(ren), such as private or public schools, just for the sake of being opposite when there is no real disagreement, be able to give specific examples.
While this may seem basic, many divorce parties have so much emotion that it impairs their divorce final hearing. The court cannot help you and discharge its duties if it does not have the evidence it needs to do so. We hope this blog post helps you if you ultimately face a contested divorce final hearing—your future rests, in part, in that time. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., attorneys serving divorcing parents throughout the State of Indiana.