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 filing date. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.140 (2023).)
As in all states, you must have a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for seeking a divorce. Some states still allow spouses to file for divorce based on "fault" grounds, meaning that they're claiming the marriage ended because of their spouse's misconduct. Not so in Kentucky, which is strictly a "no-fault" divorce state.
When you file for divorce in Kentucky, you'll simply claim that your marriage is "irretrievably broken," and there's no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.170 (2023).)
If you file for divorce but your spouse denies that your marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge may delay your case for 30-60 days. During this time, the judge may order the two of you to attend a conference with a neutral "conciliator," who will try to help you work through your differences to see if the marriage can be saved.
After the conciliation period, the judge will hold another hearing to decide if your marriage meets the requirements for divorce. In most cases, unless you both agree that your marriage is on the mend, judge will approve the divorce even if your spouse continues to disagree that your marriage should end. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.170(2) (2023).)
So even if your spouse doesn't want a divorce, the worst-case scenario is basically a delay in the proceedings.
In Kentucky, the judge may not grant your final divorce until you and your spouse have lived apart for at least 60 days. But the law allows you you to meet that requirement even if you've been living under the same roof, as long as you haven't had "sexual cohabitation" for two months. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.170(1) (2023).)
There are basically two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses have already agreed about all the issues involved in ending their marriage by the time they file for divorce. Because of that, the entire divorce process is faster and less expensive. There are no court battles, and couples can often navigate the legal process without hiring lawyers.
If you haven't managed to resolve all of the issues by the time you file for divorce, you'll at least start out with a contested divorce—even if you eventually reach a settlement before going to trial.
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.
You may file for divorce in the family court in the county where either you or your spouse usually lives. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 452.470 (2023).)
You can find information about your county's circuit court on the Kentucky Court of Justice's Family Court website.
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 somewhere between around $115 and $250. (You can usually find the current fees by searching for "divorce filing fees" and your Kentucky county's name.)
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the judge to waive them by filing a Motion for Waiver of Costs and Fees and to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. If the judge grants your request, 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. You can also have the clerk mail the documents via registered U.S. mail, return receipt requested. (Ky. Rules Civ. Proc., rules 4.01, 4.04 (2023).)
If you don't know where your spouse is, you can ask the court clerk to issue a "warning order"—a request that a court-appointed attorney try to locate your spouse. After the attorney reports back to the court about the search, the divorce may proceed. (Ky. Rules Civ. Proc., rules 4.06, 4.07 (2023).)
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: