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Indiana House Bill 1252 Could Complicate Divorce For Some Hoosiers

HB 1252 could change divorce in Indiana (Graphic by Rodney Hunt)

Among the hundreds of bills being presented in the Indiana Legislature this year at least one is raising a few eyebrows.  It’s HB 1252, and if passed it could make ending a marriage in the Hoosier state (especially if the couple has children) tedious, time consuming and, some say, dangerous for those who are trying to escape domestic violence.   

For decades now, getting a divorce in Indiana has been fairly simple because the Hoosier state is a “no fault” state.

Under current Indiana law a marriage can be dissolved without either spouse being required to prove the other did anything to cause a breakdown in the marriage. The spouse seeking divorce files a petition citing “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” and pays a filing fee (usually between $132 and $152) There is very little the other spouse can do to stop the divorce.

In 60 days most Indiana divorces are final. It can take longer depending on how long it takes both parties to settle other issues, such as division of property and child support, custody and visitation. In Indiana, spousal support is decided on a case-by-case basis.

But if House Bill 1252 becomes law divorce in Indiana would change drastically.  Couples with kids seeking a divorce would have to meet certain requirements to be granted the dissolution of marriage.  Among those, both parties would have to complete a divorce education program and/or wait 300 days for the divorce to be finalized.

It’s that 300 day wait that has domestic violence groups worried.

Marriage advocates say 300 days is reasonable, especially where children are involved, because parents should explore every avenue other than divorce to solve their problems.  And while almost no one would disagree with parents trying to work out their problems before deciding on divorce, what about situations where one spouse is abusing the other?

That’s where domestic violence advocates point out that 300 days is too long to wait. Experts say any extra amount of time could give an abuser the chance to manipulate the situation to remain in the marriage so that they can continue the abuse, or worse, give them more time to hurt their spouse even more.

And what about situations where a spouse has been beaten and the police had to intervene?  What about situations where the children are in danger?  Would it still take almost 10 months to end a bad marriage?

Possibly, but in reading House Bill 1252 there are exceptions.  Even those, say domestic violence groups, will be the rare cases where abuse is well documented or there is a conviction involved. And they have the statistics to back up their argument. Despite outreach programs and safe havens, domestic violence remains one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States.

Why is it so under-reported?  Because victims of abuse fear that turning their abuser in will only lead to being injured even more.

If you google “Indiana House Bill 1252 2012″, you’ll find more information about the bill, including blogs by family lawyers explaining the more tedious aspects of HB 1252.

Currently, HB 1252 has been referred to the Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs.  It is sponsored by Republican Representative Cindy Noe (Dist. 87)  You can read the full text of the bill here.

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