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Kentucky Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
The petitioner is the spouse who initiates the divorce, and the respondent is the party who receives the petitioner's divorce papers.
To begin a divorce, the petitioner needs to complete these forms:
The forms differ according to whether the couple has children or not.
Neither party should sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless he or she is in the presence of a notary, and both parties should be thorough and complete in responding to the questions.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
Filing the divorce papers places the action on file with the court and starts the divorce process. A 60-day waiting period begins on the date that the plaintiff files divorce documents.
The petitioner makes two copies of the divorce papers – one to keep and the other to give to the respondent. The clerk files the originals with the court.
An unrepresented person – one who is filing pro se – must pay a fee to file the documents unless he or she files an Affidavit and Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, which can be obtained from the clerk and reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that the fee should be waived because the petitioner cannot afford it, he or she does not have pay to file documents.
If the plaintiff does not know where the respondent lives, he or she must file a Form 9 Affidavit for Warning Order Attorney.
The clerk of court time and date stamps the originals and creates a file on the action. After that, the petitioner serves his or her spouse with a set of the signed, stamped photocopies as soon as possible.
Serving the Documents
After filing, the petitioner serves his or her spouse with copies of the divorce papers. Service of process ensures that everyone has an opportunity to defend his or her position.
Kentucky gives the petitioner a maximum of 45 days after filing to serve the divorce papers on the respondent. If he or she does not serve the papers within 45 days, the clerk of court dismisses the filing automatically. If the party still wants to get divorced, he or she must start over.
If the respondent is an adult who is pro se (meaning, without a lawyer), the petitioner serves the spouse at his or her home address. If the spouse has retained a lawyer, the respondent is served at the lawyer’s office.
The petitioner serving a spouse within the State of Kentucky can send the summons and petition to the respondent directly from the courthouse via registered mail, or he or she can ask the sheriff to serve the respondent personally by physically handing him or her a copy of the summons and petition. Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is hard to locate, in the military, or in jail. The clerk of court can advise in these unusual situations.
Disclosing Financial Information
Both spouses make a Preliminary Case Disclosure, which details each party’s financial picture, from employment and assets, to liabilities and monthly expenses. Supplemental documents, such as pay stubs and tax returns may be attached. Disclosure helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, how the property and debts should be divided, and whether one spouse should receive alimony.
The statement must clear, detailed, and candid. It is filed with the court and served upon the spouse as well. The petitioner files the preliminary case disclosure within 45 days of filing the divorce papers at the courthouse; the respondent files the preliminary case disclosure within 45 days of being served with the summons and petition.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
For an uncontested divorce, there are a number of forms that spouses complete together and file with the court when they reach an agreement on all issues of their divorce. These documents tell the court about the agreement and ask the court to schedule a final hearing after 60 days have passed. They are:
In contested actions, the court may require both spouses to attend a divorce education course, such as “Families in Transition.” The county clerk’s office can tell a party if the court has this requirement. The parties usually must pay a fee to take this class, but the fee is often based on income.
When the respondent does not file a response, the petitioner can finalize a divorce by asking for a default judgment even when the parties have not been able to reach an agreement with the other spouse who simply doesn’t respond to the divorce filing. A default judgment requires:
When the other spouse responds to the notice of divorce but the parties cannot reach agreement, the petitioner asks the court to schedule a final divorce hearing by filing Form #10 Notice-Motion-Order to Schedule Final Hearing.
When both spouses agree on all matters and have filed the Marital Settlement Agreement, the judge asks questions about the agreement during the hearing. If everything is in order, the court approves the agreement.
If the spouses can’t reach an agreement, the judge hears evidence from both. The petitioner is responsible for presenting evidence to the court about any such issues. After the hearing, the judge decides.
Finalizing the Divorce
In order to finalize a divorce in Kentucky, the spouses must be separated for a minimum of 60 days. This waiting period is mandatory in all Kentucky divorces. Once the spouses have waited 60 days, their divorce can become final.
The courts have the power to approve a request for a legal separation rather than a divorce, provided both parties agree. Verified Divorce Petitions in Kentucky must explicitly state: the name, birth date, social security number and address of each party and their minor children; the date and place the marriage commenced and the date the parties separated, the plans for custody, visitation, child support, and alimony, and the relief the filing party seeks.
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