By Daren Neel
The following is intended to provide a brief overview of a typical divorce in Kentucky. It is not intended to provide any sort of legal advice and should not be construed to be such. If you are in need of legal advice on divorce, please contact a Kentucky divorce lawyer.
Kentucky Divorce Petition
The court action for a divorce begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This can be filed by either party, so long as one of them has resided within the state for at least 180 days prior to the filing of the Petition.
The Petition contains basic information about the parties (and their children, if any) and also includes the Petitioner’s requests of what he or she would like the court to do (i.e., an award of sole custody of the children, restoration of non-marital property, an equitable division of the marital property and debts, a claim for maintenance, etc.).
Once the Petition is filed, it will then be served upon the Respondent, which can be accomplished in a couple of ways. The easiest and most basic is by way of certified mail. In some events, it will be necessary to request that the county sheriff’s department serve a copy of the Petition. In exceptional cases (one in which the Respondent is deliberately avoiding service), the Petitioner can request the court permit the utilization of a special bailiff to serve the Respondent.
Once the Respondent has been served, he or she will then have 20 days from the date of service to file a Response. If one is not filed within 20 days, the Petitioner can then motion the court for a default hearing, in which the court will make all of the decisions on the basis of the Petitioner’s testimony.
This is unless, of course, the Respondent shows up at the default hearing. Then the court, at its discretion, may allow the Respondent to participate in the proceedings or reschedule them altogether depending on the case.
Once the Response has been filed, the parties have 45 days to file and exchange their preliminary financial disclosure statements. These are forms where the parties disclose their incomes, their financial assets, and their financial liabilities. These forms also help identify the big issues in the case.
During the 45-day period, either party may file any sort of temporary motions. These could be to set a temporary parenting schedule during the pendency of the divorce, to set temporary child support, temporary maintenance, etc.
Kentucky Divorce Process
Upon the filing of the motion, the court would likely do two things in the Kentucky divorce process.
First, if there is no agreement, the court will set the matter for a hearing if it cannot handle the issue in 5-10 minutes (which most issues cannot be handled in that time frame). The hearing will likely be a month to two months away.
However, it is not unusual in some counties to have your hearing pushed out several months depending on how long you believe you will need for the hearing and the court’s schedule.
Second, depending on the county, the court would also refer the parties to mediation. Mediation is the process where the parties and their attorneys sit down with a mediator (a neutral third attorney who has significant experience in family law), to see if they can either come to a temporary agreement or a full agreement resolving all issues.
The vast majority of divorce cases settle entirely prior to the final trial. If the case does not settle entirely, the parties may be able to come to an agreement resolving some or most of the issues to limit what the court is needed to address.
Settlements can be done either through mediation, a settlement conference with their attorneys and the parties, or simply by negotiating back and forth informally. Just because mediation failed the first time does not mean that the case will not settle in the future.
Discovery in Kentucky Divorce
During this same period of time, the parties will engage in discovery to make sure that they have adequate information to either go into negotiations or to go to the final hearing in this matter. This can consist of sending Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents to the other party. This can also involve issuing subpoenas for bank records, doctor’s records, credit card records, etc.
Additionally, depending on the case, it may be necessary to take the deposition of the opposing party and/or other potential witnesses.
If custody is an issue and it is an extremely contentious case, the court might also appoint a custodial evaluator to help it assist in determining custody.
A custodial evaluator is a licensed psychologist who will spend significant amounts of time with the parties and their children. They will interview each and discuss their concerns regarding the other parent. After a couple months, the evaluator will issue a report indicating their professional belief for what should happen with this case.
After the parties have attended mediation, and the parties have had the opportunity to engage in discovery, either party may request a case management conference (also called a status conference depending on the county in which you reside).
This is a time for the divorce attorneys (and in most counties includes the parties) to appear before the judge to discuss where the case is, what the major issues in the case are, what needs to be done prior to trial, and if the parties are ready to schedule trial.
If a trial date is set, included in the order setting the trial will be certain deadlines to have things completed. Typically, it will cut off the discovery process at a certain date and trial preparation will begin, including identifying exhibits and witnesses to be called.
The trial, depending upon the number and complexity of the issues, will likely be scheduled for a day or two. If there are significant financial assets, trial could be much longer. Most courts do not have full days available for several months. It would not be unusual to get a trial date four to six months out.
Once the trial has occurred, and the court has closed the record from the introduction of any additional evidence, the court will take the matter under submission. At that point, you will be required to wait for a written opinion, a process that might take several weeks to several months.
The beginning to end time for a divorce differs in every case, but individuals rarely complain when the divorce occurs too quickly. Going into a divorce, you should know that it is not unheard of for a divorce to last longer than a year. Depending on the contentiousness of the case, it could last closer to two years or more.
Kentucky Divorce Lawyer
If you are a man facing divorce in Kentucky, please consult with a divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction to ensure your rights are protected. Cordell & Cordell has offices and family law attorneys located in Lexington and Louisville and licensed to practice throughout the state should you seek additional information or possible legal representation.