Every state has its own rules and procedures for filing a divorce. Here's what you need to know to get started with your Kentucky 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 Kentucky, one of the parties must have resided in the state (or been stationed in Kentucky during military service) for 180 days before the divorce is filed. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.140 (2022).)
The divorce can be filed in the family court in the county where either spouse lives. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 452.470 (2022).) You can find information about your county's circuit court on the Kentucky Court of Justice's Family Court website.
Kentucky is a "no-fault" divorce state—meaning that the courts don't require one spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you don't have to have your spouse's consent to end the marriage.
A Kentucky judge will grant a divorce after finding that:
The divorce can be filed before, after, or during the 60-day live-apart period. The only requirement is that the court can't issue a final divorce decree until the spouses have lived separately for 60 days. Living under the same roof without sexual cohabitation for 60 days is sufficient to meet the living-apart requirement. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.170 (2022).)
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.
Unlike some states, Kentucky doesn't have a separate, simplified procedure for uncontested divorce. Either spouse can file the divorce, or the spouses can file jointly.
The document that you'll file to start the divorce is called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Along with the petition, you'll need to file:
You might have to file different or additional forms if you have minor children. Some counties have their own forms, so it's a good idea to contact the clerk of the court where you plan to file to find out if there are additional or local forms you must use.
Most of the forms for filing a contested divorce in Kentucky are the same as the forms for an uncontested divorce. However, instead of filing an Entry of Appearance and Waiver, you will be filing a Summons, and you won't be filing a marital settlement agreement.
Along with filing the right paperwork, you'll have to pay court filing fees to begin your divorce. Filing fees in Kentucky vary from county to county. Expect to pay around $115 to $250. For example, as of 2022 the filing fees for divorce in Kenton County total $198, and the filing fees for divorce in Fayette County total $211.50.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the judge to waive the fees by filing a Motion for Waiver of Costs and Fees and to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. If the court grants your request to waive fees, you won't have to pay any court costs during your divorce.
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 Kentucky, you can hire a sheriff or process server to personally deliver the documents to your spouse. (Ky. R. Civ. Pro. 4.04 (2022).) You can also have the clerk mail the documents via registered U.S. mail, return receipt requested. (Ky. R. Civ. Pro. 4.01 (2022).)
If you don't know where your spouse is, you can request the court clerk issue a "warning order"—a request that a court-appointed attorney attempt to locate your spouse. The warning order attorney must, within 50 days, report back to the court about the results of attempts to locate the spouse. The court can proceed with the divorce after the warning order attorney enters a report. (Ky. R. Civ. Pro. 4.07 (2022).)
If you'd like to DIY your divorce, the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky provides online self-help packets of divorce information, including forms with instructions. Your local courthouse might also have forms available for pickup or online.
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; check with one of the following organizations for assistance: