Every state has its own rules and procedures for filing a divorce. Here's what you need to know to get started with your Kansas divorce (also called a "dissolution of marriage").
You must meet a state's residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts. To get a divorce in Kansas, one of the spouses must have been a resident of Kansas (or stationed at a military installation in the state) for at least 60 days immediately before the divorce is filed. (Kan. Stat. § 23-2703 (2023).)
You will file your divorce in the Kansas district court where either you or your spouse live at the time of filing. You can also file in a Kansas district court located where the non-filing spouse can be served with the court papers (see the discussion of service below). (Kan. Stat. § 60-607 (2023).)
Kansas allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. A no-fault divorce is one in which the court doesn't require either spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other's actions caused (were "grounds for") the failure of the marriage.
No-fault divorces in Kansas reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. There are two no-fault grounds for divorce in Kansas:
For the judge to find incompatibility, there must be no chance that the spouses will reconcile. To find incompatibility by reason of mental illness or incapacity, the judge must find that the incapacitated spouse meets certain statutory criteria. (Kan. Stat. § 23-2701 (2023).)
In a fault-based divorce, one or both spouses will have to present evidence to the judge that proves that the other spouse failed to "perform a material marital duty or obligation." (Kan. Stat. § 23-2701 (2023).) This ground for divorce is rarely used; most divorcing couples prefer to file no-fault divorces.
Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and alimony (spousal support). A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses disagree on at least one topic and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.
Uncontested divorces usually reach resolution faster and are less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court. Instead, the judge needs only to review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.
To begin your Kansas uncontested divorce, you'll need to file a:
You will need to sign the Petition for Divorce in front of a notary public, and you'll have to file additional forms if you have minor children. The Kansas Judicial Council provides informational packets that include forms for divorces without minor children and divorces with minor children. Also, regardless of whether you have children, be sure to check with the clerk of the court to see if there are other required forms.
When you file, ask the court clerk how to schedule a final hearing date and time. Before the final hearing, fill out a proposed Decree of Divorce (note that there are different forms for couples with children and without children). It is in your proposed Decree of Divorce that you will note the terms of the marital settlement agreement reached by you and your spouse. The judge will review the terms at the hearing.
A contested divorce begins when one of the spouses files a petition for divorce with the court. Most of the forms for filing a contested divorce in Kansas are the same as the forms for an uncontested divorce. Be sure to check with the clerk of court to see if there are additional forms you should file.
Along with filing the right paperwork, you'll have to pay court filing fees (sometimes called "docket fees") to begin your divorce. As of 2023, the statewide filing fee (known as a "docket fee") for divorce in Kansas is $173.00. (Kan. Stat. § 60-2001 (2023).)
However, most courts add a surcharge on to this base charge so that the total fees are often closer to $190-200. For example the total filing fee in the Third Judicial District (Shawnee County) is $195.
After you file the paperwork, you'll need to provide notice to your spouse of the divorce by "serving" (delivering) copies of what was filed with the court. You can't serve your spouse yourself; you must have someone who's at least 18 years of age and not a party to the case do it.
In Kansas, you can complete service by:
In a contested divorce, you will go through several steps in the divorce process, including discovery (the legal process for gathering evidence and getting information from your spouse). Then, unless you and your spouse reach a complete settlement at some point (typically with the help of your lawyers), you'll go to trial on any unresolved issues.
With an uncontested divorce, you'll still have to appear at court for a hearing, but it will typically be fairly short. the judge will review your paperwork and might ask you a few questions about your settlement agreement.
In most cases, the final divorce hearing will not take place until until at least 60 days have passed since you filed the divorce petition. (Kan. Stat. § 23-2708 (2023).) However, the court might waive this waiting period if you file for an emergency divorce (more on that below).
If you have a reason for needing to get your final divorce before the mandatory 60-day waiting period is up, you may request an emergency divorce. You can include the request in your divorce petition or file a separate motion (formal request) with the court.
The court will set a hearing to rule on whether the emergency is valid. Both spouses must be notified about the hearing date at least seven days in advance. The hearing can't take place until at least 21 days after your served your spouse with the divorce papers, unless both of you agree otherwise.
At the hearing, you'll need to provide evidence to prove that your circumstances warrant speeding up the divorce process. For instance, an emergency divorce might be warranted if you're experienced domestic abuse in your marriage or if a delay would cause a financial crisis.
If you can persuade the judge that your situation is truly an emergency, the judge may decide to hear the divorce case right away. (Kan. Stat. § 23-2708 (2023).)
If you'd like to DIY your divorce, the Kansas Judicial Council has a lot of helpful information online, including forms. Many courts, such as the Johnson County District Court, also have forms and information available online, or have help centers for people representing themselves (check to see if the center is open before heading over—many are closed due to COVID).
If you're working with an attorney, your attorney will assess your situation and fill out, file, and serve all the necessary forms. Many divorcing couples can't afford to hire an attorney to handle their entire case, but would like some assistance with completing and filing their forms. If this describes your situation, consider using an online divorce service or finding an attorney who will consult with you on an as-needed basis. Low-income individuals might qualify for reduced-fee or free legal aid.