How Do I File for Divorce in Kentucky?

Learn about the forms and procedures necessary to file for a divorce in Kentucky.

Preparing Your Forms

To start the divorce process without a lawyer, you’ll need to complete some forms. The Kentucky Court of Justice has placed some, but not all, of the forms you'll need online. You can also go to your local courthouse or driver's license branch and request a complete packet of divorce papers for a nominal fee.

Another alternative is to go to the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky's interactive divorce form, which has an online interface that helps you prepare the correct documents. The interactive divorce form is a free service. However, you can only use the interactive form if you don't have children, and you agree about how to divide your property and debts. If you need to determine child custody or child support, consider hiring an attorney.

The "petitioner" is the party who initiates the divorce, and the "respondent" is the party who receives the petitioner's divorce papers. The documents that the petitioner needs to begin the divorce process are:

  • the summons and petition for divorce,
  • the case data information sheet, and
  • the certificate of divorce.

Don't sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless and until you're in the presence of a notary. When you work on the forms, 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.

Filing Your Forms

When you’re ready, make two copies of all documents. Eventually, you will give one to your spouse and keep the other for yourself. You need to file the original with the court. (KY Rev Stat § 403.130 (2018).)

Go to your local county courthouse and ask to file the documents. You’ll need to pay a filing fee. If you can’t afford the fee, you can complete the Affidavit and Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, which can be obtained from the clerk of court and will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees to waive the filing fees, you won't have to pay to file documents in your case.

When you give your documents to the clerk of court, the clerk will stamp the paperwork with the date you filed and open a court record for you. Serve your spouse with a set of the signed, stamped photocopies as soon as possible after leaving.

Serving Your Forms

When you’ve prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents. Service of process is essential in the American legal system because it ensures that everyone has notice about what’s going on and an opportunity to appear in court and present their point of view. Service of process provides that no one is ever ambushed in a courtroom.

If you're the petitioner, you should know that Kentucky law gives you a maximum of 45 days after filing to serve your documents on the respondent. If you don't serve the papers within 45 days, the clerk of court will dismiss your case automatically, and you'll have to start the divorce process over.

If your spouse is an adult who is pro se (meaning, has not hired a lawyer), then you should serve your spouse directly at your spouse’s home address. If your spouse has hired a lawyer, serve the attorney at the lawyer’s office and don’t send copies to your spouse. (CR 4.01-CR 4.04.)

If you're the petitioner and you will be serving your spouse within the state of Kentucky, special service rules apply. You have two basic options:

  • you can send the summons and petition to the respondent directly from the courthouse via registered mail, or
  • you can ask the sheriff to serve your spouse personally by physically handing your spouse a copy of the summons and petition.

Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone hard to locate, in the military, or serving a jail sentence. Check with the clerk of court for more advice in these unusual situations.

Financial Disclosures

Both the petitioner and the respondent have to complete a Preliminary Case Disclosure, which details all income, expenses, assets, and debts. You may need to attach certain supplemental documents, like pay stubs and tax returns. Financial disclosures help everyone to understand more about assets and debts that may impact child support, how the court should divide property and debts, and 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 on your spouse.

The petitioner must file the preliminary case disclosure within 45 days of filing the divorce papers at the courthouse. The respondent must file the preliminary case disclosure within 45 days of being served with the summons and petition.

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