If you decide to end your marriage, there are certain issues that have to be settled. For example, if you and your spouse have children, you’ll have to make custody decisions, including how much time each parent is going to spend with them. You'll need to decide how much child support has to be paid, whether either spouse is entitled to alimony, and how to divide your property and debts.
In order to start the divorce process while representing yourself, you’ll need to complete some forms. The Kansas Judicial Council publishes divorce forms online. These are official forms, but you should double-check with your local court to make sure the judges there will accept them.
Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. If not, write or print neatly and legibly. It’s important to avoid mistakes in your divorce paperwork.
The forms you're required to complete differ depending on whether you have children and also on whether you are the "petitioner" (the spouse who initiates the divorce) or the "respondent" (the spouse who must respond to the divorce papers).
If you and your spouse don't have any minor children (meaning, kids who are financially dependent on you and who aren't legally emancipated), you need to select the forms for divorcing couples without children.
The first thing you should do is review the Kansas Judicial Branch self-help website. You’ll also want to review the instructions that go along with your divorce forms. These instructions will guide you through the process, and help you to decide what additional forms you'll need to download, complete, file, and serve.
You may need to file different forms depending on your particular situation, but if you're the petitioner, you will complete a Civil Cover Sheet, Domestic Relations Affidavit, and Petition for Divorce. (Don't sign the affidavit or petition unless you do so in front of a notary public.)
You'll also need to prepare the In State Summons or Out of State Summons, depending on where your spouse lives. If you're the Respondent, complete the Answer for Divorce Without Children and Domestic Relations Affidavit, and sign them in the presence of a notary. (See Kan. Stat. § 23-2704 (2019).)
Some of the forms will vary from case to case. For example, you will need to complete additional forms if you have children. This may include a parenting plan. A judge will need to assess a child’s best interests when determining custody. The Kansas self-help instructions will explain this further. You can also learn more about how to positively parent your child during a divorce.
When you’re ready, make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually you will give one copy to the court, one to the other spouse and keep the last one for yourself.
Go to your local courthouse (the one located where you or your spouse are living) and ask to file the documents that were outlined in the instructions you read earlier.
If you're the petitioner, the clerk will stamp the documents with the date and assign your case a number that needs to be on every document going forward. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee. If you can't afford to pay it, ask the clerk for a Poverty Affidavit. A judge will review your affidavit and decide whether to waive (eliminate) all filing fees.
Ask the court clerk to give you two copies of everything, then assemble a packet for your spouse that includes everything you filed plus the summons. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving.
When you’ve prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents to provide notice about the divorce and an opportunity to appear in court.
If your spouse is an adult who is pro se (meaning, has not retained a lawyer), then you should serve your spouse directly at your spouse’s home address. If your spouse has hired an attorney, serve the documents to the lawyer’s office and don’t send copies to your spouse.
If you're the petitioner and you're serving the summons and petition, special service rules apply and you must pursue one of the following options to notify your spouse that you've filed divorce papers.
Most other documents can be served by first class mail or hand delivery.
Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is very hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail. Check with your clerk of court for more information in these unusual situations.
Both spouses have to complete a Domestic Relations Affidavit, which is a written statement sworn in front of a notary public that details each spouse’s financial picture.
Spouses must provide information about income, expenses, assets and debts, which will help everyone determine how much child support should be paid or whether one spouse should receive alimony. Make sure you are clear, detailed, and candid when you complete this form. File it with the court and serve it upon your spouse as well.
Kansas Legal Services, provides legal services to low-income Kansans and has a free, interactive, online service to help you locate and complete the correct divorce forms.
For additional assistance, you can view the Kansas Legal Services divorce resource page, call 1-800-723-6953, or submit an online application for legal help. See also Kan. Stat. §§ 23-2701 through 23-2718 (2019).