In Kentucky, you may file for a divorce without using a lawyer, but you have to proceed carefully. It's essential that you read all the necessary forms and follow the required procedures. A do-it-yourself divorce can save money and time. If your divorce is simple and doesn't involve children, or you and your spouse agree on all the terms of your divorce, filing without legal representation may be a good option.
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Residency Requirements and Grounds
To file for divorce in Kentucky, you must meet the state residency requirements. You or your spouse must have lived in Kentucky for at least 180 days before filing the divorce papers. A person who serves in the armed forces may meet this requirement as long as she was stationed in Kentucky for at least 180 days before filing. Kentucky, as in all states, provides for a "no fault" divorce so you don't have to prove that your spouse is at fault to end the marriage. Generally speaking, the court must find that your marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is no chance of reconciliation.
Information and Forms
Before filing, you'll need to gather information about the many aspects of your marriage and current finances, including household expenses, property and debt. Even if a spouse has property or debt in his name only, it still may be considered marital property under Kentucky law and, as such, you must include it in the divorce paperwork. To actually begin the divorce process in Kentucky, you need to complete and file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in a county circuit court. Additional forms you may need to file depend on the facts of your case. For example, if you have children, you need to file an affidavit form, on which you provide information about the children. While the court clerk can give you the forms the court requires, she can't answer specific questions about the forms as that is considered giving legal advice.
If You and Your Spouse Agree
Once you file your petition and any other forms the court requires, such as a case information sheet and mandatory case disclosure on which you disclose the debts and assets of the marriage, you must notify your spouse of the case. To do this, you must fill out a summons form. The summons is an official call for your spouse to file an answer to your petition in court. You'll have to have your spouse personally served the divorce papers, including the petition and summons. You can have your spouse served by certified mail, process server or any person over 18 not involved in the case. You may complete and file a settlement agreement if you and your spouse agree to the terms of the divorce, such as property division and debt allocation. After the agreement is filed, you must fill out and file two forms: Findings of Fact and Deposition of Plaintiff. The findings form confirms the facts of the case and deposition establishes grounds and other information, such as the filing of the settlement agreement. The judge will finalize your divorce and issue a divorce decree -- the legal document that is proof of the end of the marriage -- if he approves the settlement agreement and all the papers are in order.
If You and Your Spouse Don't Agree
If you and your spouse don't agree, you may try mediation on your own or the judge may order mediation. In mediation, both parties sit down with a court mediator and try to reach an agreement. If you're successful, the settlement agreement is filed in court. If you fail to reach an agreement through mediation, you'll have to go before a judge for a hearing during which both you and your spouse can present evidence and explain your sides. The judge may order evaluations of both of you regarding your parenting abilities if you have children and can't come to an agreement regarding custody.
Help with Your DIY Divorce
You may need legal help if you believe your spouse isn't going to agree to the divorce or any key issues, such as child custody arrangements and property division. If your spouse has an attorney, you may need one as well. The judge, court clerks and other persons you'll see while going through the divorce process can't answer any legal questions you may have. If you can't afford a lawyer, you may have other options. You can ask the judge to order your spouse to pay your legal fees. You can use a lawyer only for the more complex areas of your case, such as child custody, while doing the basic parts yourself to save money on fees. Legal aid groups in Kentucky may give you low or no-cost legal help if you're income is low. Contact the bar association in Kentucky for a list of legal aid groups in the state.