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Kevin O'Flaherty

What Are the Domestic Violence Laws in Indiana?

 In Indiana, the law is on your side, providing protection, resources, and legal remedies to help you escape from this toxic situation. This journey into the depths of "what are the domestic violence laws in Indiana" will empower you with knowledge, arming you against your abuser and leading you towards a safer future.

Understanding Indiana's Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic violence in Indiana is a broad term. It includes any abuse that takes place between family members, intimate partners, or people living in the same household. This broad definition encompasses various forms of abuse, offering a wide range of legal protections for victims.

The criminal charges for domestic violence in Indiana may range from a misdemeanor domestic battery to a felony, depending on the severity of the violent act. A felony conviction for domestic battery may result in a fine of up to $10,000 and prison terms commensurate with the felony level. These stiff penalties serve as a deterrent to potential abusers, sending a clear message that Indiana takes domestic violence seriously.

Types of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in Indiana can manifest as physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and psychological abuse. Physical violence, for example, is characterized by any act of violence. This can range from a slap or a push to more serious acts of violence that result in bodily injury.

Psychological violence, on the other hand, can be more subtle but equally damaging to one's physical and mental health. This type of violence aims to control, intimidate, or manipulate another person through fear, humiliation, or other forms of psychological abuse. Stalking, harassment, and financial abuse are other forms of domestic violence that aim to control and terrorize victims.

Understanding these different types of abuse is crucial in recognizing and addressing domestic violence.

Definitions and Legal Terms

Just as a key unlocks a door, understanding the definitions and legal terms related to domestic violence can unlock your understanding of Indiana's domestic violence laws. Physical domestic abuse, for instance, is defined as any act of physical violence. Domestic violence, on the other hand, is defined as an act of aggression committed by a person against their spouse, co-habitant such as a spouse, co-parent, or child, or an incapacitated person under their control.

Indiana Code defines domestic battery as an act of knowingly or intentionally touching a family or household member in a rude or angry manner. Emotional or psychological abuse is a form of manipulation used to control another person or to damage their sense of self-worth. This type of behavior can have devastating impacts on the individual's mental health. These definitions provide a framework for understanding the complex and multifaceted nature of domestic or family violence, which includes committed domestic violence.

Protective Orders and Restraining Orders in Indiana

Imagine protective orders and restraining orders as shields designed to protect victims of domestic violence from further harm. In Indiana, these court-issued legal documents serve as a barrier between the victim and the abuser. These orders can bar abusers from entering the victim's home or workplace or communicating with the victim in any way.

Furthermore, a judge can issue ex parte orders of protection without requiring prior notice to the abusive spouse. This means that you can seek protection without tipping off your abuser. These protective orders can also include measures to protect family pets, determine possession of the couple's home or vehicle, and require the abuser to provide financial assistance for expenses related to the abuse.

Obtaining a Protective Order

Obtaining a protective order in Indiana is like navigating a maze, requiring careful consideration of each turn. To start the process, you must file a petition in civil court in the city or town where you or the respondent resides. Once the order is granted, the respondent is then obligated to refrain from any direct or indirect contact with you, as well as any stalking, harassing, or threatening of you or your family members.

Thankfully, Indiana provides an online system for petitioning for protection orders, making it easier to navigate this process. Information regarding the filing of a restraining order petition can be found on the county court's website. Whether you're filing in the context of a divorce case or any other relationship involving domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the process is the same. For more information on orders of protection read our article, Obtaining an Indiana Order of Protection.

Temporary Restraining Orders

Think of a temporary restraining order as a temporary shield, providing immediate protection while a longer-term solution is put in place. In Indiana, a temporary restraining order is a court order that restricts a person from taking certain actions for a specified duration. This order can prevent parties from concealing, transferring, or disposing of marital property and grant the petitioning spouse temporary possession of the family home.

To obtain a temporary restraining order, you must file a petition with the court, including pertinent information regarding the parties involved, the type of abuse, and the requested relief. Disregarding these orders can result in criminal charges, with potential penalties including monetary fines and imprisonment.

Enforcement and Consequences

Violating protective and restraint orders is akin to shaking a hornet's nest, inviting severe consequences. Enforcement of these orders can lead to arrest.

Disregarding these orders may also negatively impact the violator's property division award in divorce cases.

Child Custody and Domestic Violence

The impact of domestic violence extends beyond the individual victims, reaching into the lives of the most vulnerable: children. In Indiana, the presence of domestic violence plays a significant role in determining child custody. If the court finds evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, measures may be taken to protect the child, such as reducing or limiting parenting time or awarding sole custody to the other parent.

Indiana courts apply the "best interests of the child" standard when making decisions about child custody. This means that the court considers a range of factors to determine custody, with the child's well-being at the forefront of their decision-making process.

Best Interests of the Child

The "best interests of the child" is a guiding star for courts making child custody decisions in Indiana. Safety, emotional well-being, and the presence of domestic violence in the home are among the factors taken into consideration when determining the best interests of the child.

This approach ensures that the child's needs are prioritized, placing their well-being above all else. It recognizes that each child and each family situation is unique, requiring a tailored approach to custody decisions.

Parenting Time and Supervised Visitation

Parenting time and supervised visitation can be compared to a seesaw. If a history of domestic violence is present, the balance may tip, leading to limited or required supervised visitation to ensure the child's safety.

In Indiana, parenting time is defined as the period a non-custodial parent spends with their child, as outlined in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. However, if an abuser can demonstrate a change in behavior, including the successful completion of court-mandated counseling, they may petition for additional visitation rights.

Batterer's Intervention Program

The Batter's Intervention Program in Indiana is a lighthouse, guiding non-custodial parents with a history of domestic violence toward change and rehabilitation. Certified by the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), this program is utilized by the Department of Child Services (DCS) as their preferred contract.

The program aims to deter domestic violence offenders from continuing abusive behavior by attempting to alter their negative and sexist attitudes and behaviors. Non-custodial parents who have a documented history of domestic violence may be mandated to attend batterer's intervention programs. The ultimate goal of the program is to prevent future abuse.

Divorce Proceedings and Domestic Violence

The storm of domestic violence can cast a dark cloud over divorce proceedings. In Indiana, domestic violence can influence these proceedings, potentially affecting grounds for divorce, property division, and spousal support. A Indiana divorce lawyer can provide assistance in requesting an order of protection or a restraining order from the court.

It is customary to consolidate protective orders and divorce cases in Indiana. This is because domestic abuse and a protective order often affect various aspects of the divorce. This streamlines the process and ensures that all aspects of the situation are considered together.

Grounds for Divorce

In Indiana, grounds for divorce can be compared to the foundation of a house, providing the basis on which to build a case for the dissolution of the marriage. Grounds for divorce in the state include irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, conviction of a felony (after the marriage), impotence, and no-fault divorce.

Fault-based grounds for divorce, such as adultery, willful desertion, habitual drunkenness, and being discovered to be second cousins, are also recognized. The presence of domestic violence can significantly influence the outcome of the divorce case, with the court taking into consideration the severity, frequency, and impact of the violence on the victim when making its decision.

Protecting Family Pets in Domestic Violence Cases

Unfortunately, the tendrils of domestic violence can also wrap around the innocent and voiceless members of the family: the pets. Indiana legislation recognizes this, prohibiting animal abuse committed "with the intention of threatening, intimidating, coercing, harassing, or terrorizing a family or household member".

The proposed legislation also seeks to enable courts to grant victims possession of their pets. This not only ensures the safety of the pets but also prevents the abuser from using the pets as a means to control or torture the victim.

Golden retriever, kid

Indiana Laws on Pets and Domestic Violence

Indiana laws have evolved to recognize the role of pets in domestic violence situations. Animal abuse committed with the intent to threaten, intimidate, coerce, harass, or terrorize a family or household member is outlawed as a form of domestic violence. Legislation has also been proposed to enable courts to grant victims possession of pets.

These laws acknowledge that pets are often an integral part of the family and that their safety and well-being are of concern during domestic violence situations. They also provide a way to protect pets from becoming another victim of domestic violence.

Including Pets in Protective Orders

Just as a protective order can shield a victim of domestic violence, it can also extend its protective arm to cover pets. Indiana's amended domestic violence laws include provisions for pets in protective orders, prohibiting the abuser from harming or taking the pet away from the victim.

To include a pet in a protective order, a petition must be filed with the court, including the pet's name, description, and any other pertinent information. Disregarding a protective order for a pet may incur criminal charges, with potential penalties including monetary fines and imprisonment.

Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence in Indiana

Imagine a lifeline thrown to a drowning person. That's what resources for victims of domestic violence in Indiana can be. Victims have access to a variety of resources, including The Julian Center, which provides support for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other life crises. Additionally, there are seven domestic violence and abuse shelters and programs in Indianapolis, IN, with four offering a hotline and four offering emergency shelter.

Beyond shelters and hotlines, legal assistance organizations may provide free or low-cost attorneys and lawyer referral services for private attorneys in Indiana. These resources can help victims navigate the legal system, understand their rights, and find the help they need.

Hotlines and Support Services

Hotlines and support services act as a beacon in the dark, offering immediate help and guidance to victims of domestic violence. The Julian Center, a non-profit organization in Indianapolis, provides assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other life crises, including a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy.

In Indianapolis alone, there are seven domestic violence and abuse shelters and programs, four of which offer a hotline and four of which provide emergency shelter. National resources are also available, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, and additional resources can be found at

Legal Assistance

Navigating the legal system can be daunting, especially for victims of domestic violence. Thankfully, legal assistance is available to help. Organizations such as ICADV, Indiana Legal Services, and Trapp Law LLC offer legal assistance to victims of domestic violence in Indiana. These organizations may provide free or low-cost legal services to victims, helping them understand their rights and navigate the complex legal processes involved in obtaining protection and filing for divorce.

Victims of domestic violence can benefit from the services these organizations provide, such as legal advice.


From understanding the basic definitions and types of domestic violence to navigating the legal implications of protective orders, child custody, and divorce proceedings, this journey into Indiana's domestic violence laws has shed light on the protections and resources available to victims. Remember, if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, help is available. Reach out to the resources listed in this blog post, and take the first step towards a safer future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Level 5 felony domestic violence in Indiana?

In Indiana, a Level 5 Felony Domestic Violence is Domestic Battery that results in serious bodily injury to a family or household member or is committed with a deadly weapon against a family or household member.

This type of crime is punishable by a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of six years in prison. Additionally, the offender may be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

What is the code for domestic battery in Indiana?

According to Indiana's legal code (IC 35-42-2-1.3), domestic battery is a battery offense committed against a spouse or someone living with the offender as if they were spouses.

This offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

How long does domestic battery stay on your record in Indiana?

Domestic battery stays on your record in Indiana for five years after the completion of your sentence.

What are the laws against domestic violence in the US?

Domestic violence is treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor according to US laws, with perpetrators typically subject to probation.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) also provides shelter and protection to victims of domestic violence and their families.

​If you are looking for an Indiana divorce attorney to assist you in this matter, please click here to find an Indiana divorce lawyer near you. 


While we serve most of Indiana, if you’re in the Indianapolis, IN area and are looking for an experienced Indianapolis divorce attorney to assist you, please feel free to reach out to O’Flaherty Law of Indianapolis at: 

O’Flaherty Law of Indianapolis

22 E. Washington St., Ste. 210A

Indianapolis, IN 46204

(463) 888 - 9054

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual’s legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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