How to Get a Default Judgment for a Divorce in Kentucky

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The laws in Kentucky take a lot of the guesswork out of trying to get a divorce by default. The legislature has separate provisions for a spouse who simply declines to answer your petition for divorce, or if he cannot be found. The state offers a website ( offering detailed instructions for filing your paperwork with the court.

Download a petition for dissolution of marriage from the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky website, ( or go to your county courthouse and ask the clerk of the circuit court for Form 1B if you have minor children, or Form 1A if you do not. You also need a case information data sheet, which is a thumbnail recap of the information you'll put in your petition, and a summons, which tells your spouse he has 20 days to answer your petition. Both are available on the state's website.

Fill out the petition, giving identifying information for you, your spouse and your children, if you have any, and telling the court how long you and your spouse have lived separate and apart. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only divorce ground available in Kentucky, and you must have lived apart for at least two months in order to file. The petition will also ask you to list the details of how you want to divide property and debt with your spouse, as well as your wishes regarding custody and visitation, if you have children.

Take your completed paperwork to the circuit court for filing. Ask the court clerk for a certificate of divorce. This form is available only at the courthouse when you file your petition. The clerk will tell you how to fill it out.

Go to the mail room at the courthouse when you leave the clerk; she can tell you where to find it. Deliver a stamped, filed copy of your paperwork to the mail room staff and the court will send it to your spouse via certified mail, restricted delivery.

Prepare a motion for default judgment and decree of dissolution of marriage if your spouse does not file an answer to your petition within 20 days. The motion includes a default certificate, which is a sworn statement by you that you served your spouse with the petition via the court, and a military affidavit, stating that he is not in the military. If he is, the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act may protect him from default, so you should consult an attorney. All of these forms are available on the state’s website.

File your motion with the court. The clerk will give you a date for a hearing and give you a copy of your paperwork to take to the mail room and send to your spouse, notifying her of the date as well. You must appear in court at the appointed time for the judge to sign your certificate of divorce and grant you your divorce.


  • If you don’t know the whereabouts of your spouse, file an additional motion asking the court to appoint a warning order attorney. You can also download this from the court’s website. The court will appoint a warning order attorney who will file a report that your spouse can’t be located. You’ll have to wait an additional 50 days before your divorce is finalized.



About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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