Self-Divorce With an Absent Spouse in Kentucky

By Tom Streissguth

In the state of Kentucky, anyone seeking a divorce from a missing spouse may file for divorce by publication. In these cases, state law requires the court to appoint a warning order attorney who is tasked with the responsibility of locating the missing spouse. This procedure allows the courts to grant a divorce without service of a divorce summons, which is otherwise required by state law.


Divorce petitioners unable to locate their spouse, or whose spouses have fled to escape the divorce action, must use a warning order attorney. The petitioner files an Affidavit for Warning Order Attorney in the court where the divorce petition is filed, supplying the spouse's last known address. The attorney, who must be a member of the state bar and available for this service, is then appointed by the court.

Warning Order Attorney

A warning order attorney must make a good-faith effort to locate and notify the missing spouse. He must prepare a full report of his efforts to locate the missing spouse within 50 days of the appointment. If the spouse is located, the petitioner -- through the warning order attorney -- must carry out service of the divorce summons. Whether or not the spouse is located, the court may proceed with the divorce action after the 50-day period has elapsed.

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After the report is filed and it is determined the spouse cannot be located, state law requires publication of the divorce notice. The petitioner files an affidavit confirming the missing spouse cannot be found. The clerk of court then directs publication of notice in a general-circulation newspaper, which must be published in the same county in which the divorce petition was filed.


After the warning order attorney files his report with the court and the publication of the divorce notice has run the required length of time, the petitioner may request a hearing for the purpose of finalizing the divorce and granting the marital settlement agreement, either as proposed by the petitioner or as amended by the court. By state law, the court cannot rule on child custody disputes or financial matters in a case where a warning order attorney was used and the respondent does not come forward to answer the petition.

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