We all hear a lot about ugly divorce cases, because they're more interesting and newsworthy. But we don't hear much about the majority of cases, where people are able to put aside their hard feelings and compromise on the tough issues.
If you and your spouse can hammer out agreements in your divorce, then you may be good candidates for an "uncontested divorce" which doesn't go to trial. This article will explain uncontested divorces in Kentucky. If you have any questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
An uncontested divorce means that both spouses agree on all the key aspects of the divorce, including:
If you or your spouse disagree about any of these items, your divorce will be considered "contested" and it will have to go to trial.
You can only get an uncontested divorce in Kentucky if the spouse asking for the divorce has been living in the State of Kentucky for at least 180 days before filing. Additionally, you and your spouse have to have been separated for at least 60 days, and the wife can't be pregnant. (If the wife is pregnant, the divorce process can't begin until the baby is born.)
You and your spouse also have to agree on the grounds for the divorce. Kentucky is a purely "no fault" state, which means that the only reason a divorce can be granted is if there's been an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." This means that the marriage is so badly broken that it can't be repaired. No fault divorce prevents spouses from having to waste time arguing about intimate details of their marriage in front of strangers.
You’re responsible for knowing where to file your papers. If you file in the wrong place, the judge might transfer or toss out your case and you could be ordered to start over. The Kentucky Judicial Branch has a website you can use to locate the correct court. You have to file for divorce in the county where you live.
Your divorce will start in one of Kentucky's circuit courts, which are the entry-level trial courts for family matters. Each circuit court covers one or more counties. Within the circuit courts are a division called family courts. Family courts specialize in divorce, custody, and other cases that involve children. They are still part of the circuit courts, but they devote 100% of their time to family cases. If you live in a circuit with a family court division, that's where your case will begin.
The first thing that the "petitioner" (the spouse who begins the divorce) has to do is locate the correct forms and complete them. These forms will include a petition, which is a legal document that asks the court to order something, like granting a divorce or requiring someone to pay alimony. If you don't have any children, you can use this websiteto complete the divorce paperwork electronically. If you do have children, you'll need to contact the clerk at your circuit courthouse and find out what papers to use.
Next, the petitioner will take the original petition and two copies to the office of the court clerk. The petitioner will have to pay a filing fee, which varies by county. The petitioner will also have to pay a fee to have the court "serve" official copies of the petition on the "respondent" (the other spouse). "Serving papers" means that a sheriff's deputy or professional process server makes sure that the respondent gets the papers. If you and your spouse are already in agreement, you can bypass this by having your spouse sign a notarized agreement to waive service.
If you are the petitioner and you can't afford to pay any of these fees, ask the clerk for fee waiver forms. These forms explain to the judge that you can't pay the filing fee due to indigency (poverty). You'll have to provide some information about your financial circumstances. If the judge agrees that you're needy, you won't have to pay anything.
When all the paperwork is filed, including any written agreements you and your spouse reach, one of you will have to go to court for a final hearing to provide brief testimony. The judge will ask about the agreement and will approve it and sign the final order if the agreement is fair.
There are very detailed instructions for how to obtain a divorce. It’s critical that you obtain all the instructions and checklists and follow them exactly. Filing out the forms can feel like a lot of work, but take your time and work carefully. Type everything on a computer or print neatly. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, the judge may have questions or concerns about your paperwork, and may not be able to sign the final order.
Remember: the court clerks who work in the courthouse can’t give you legal advice. You may be able to get additional help with your case through the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky (divorce). If you don't qualify for legal aid, and you have additional questions, you should consult with a family law attorney.
Kentucky Revised Statutes (see Title XXXV, Domestic Relations)