Proposed Kentucky law would drastically change divorce cases

Earlier this week, on February 16, 2017, a new bill was introduced in the Kentucky House that would significantly alter the way divorce cases proceed through family courts. Click here for the full link to the bill (HB 427 introduced by Fayette County's Stan Lee). The proposed legislation is summarized as follows   

AN ACT relating to divorce.
     Amend KRS 403.044 to prohibit hearing evidence in a divorce action involving minor children before 180 days have passed since the filing of the petition; amend KRS 403.170 to require the court in a divorce to hold a hearing with the parties present to determine whether the marriage is irretrievably broken and allow the court to require a divorce assessment performed by a qualified mental health professional.

The proposed law does not include any exceptions for domestic violence victims to avoid confronting their abuser in a mandatory divorce hearing.

No exception is included for uncontested, collaborative, or amicable divorces in which spouses currently do not have to appear in family court if they have an agreement on what is best for their family.

Currently, a divorce cannot be completed until at least 60 days passes when minor children are involved.

Wait times in many family courts across the Commonwealth are weeks or months. Contact your legislator if you are concerned about the impact this law will have on an already over-burdened court system that attempts to provide swift justice to families and kids in need.

 

 

 

Do I have to list all of my property on my financial disclosure in my divorce?

Financial disclosure forms are required to be filed in divorce and separation cases in Louisville and across the state of Kentucky pursuant to family court rules. It is common that your husband or wife may file the form incorrectly as many couples do not have the correct understanding of what items should be disclosed.

Kentucky law allows a divorce judge to divide property and debt all the way up until the time of the divorce. (Compare this to a divorce in Indiana, where the marital estate generally closes at the time the case is filed.) Usually the financial disclosure form is filed weeks or months before the divorce is finalized, and often the spouses have already physically separated by the time they are working with their attorneys to complete their financial disclosure. This leads to one or both sides of the case leaving out property or debt that came into existence after the parties separated. 

Another common error is failing to list assets that were acquired before the marriage, or only listing items that are in joint names or that were obtained during the marriage. Kentucky law recognizes pre-marital and non-marital items, but it is important that your attorney properly categorizes these items on the required disclosure form so that those claims are not lost.

In contested divorce cases, multiple disclosure forms are often filed - a preliminary or initial disclosure filed early on in the case, followed by a final version prior to the divorce trial. While some items can be corrected in the "final" version, these disclosure forms outline important issues for the family court, and it is important that your divorce attorney is experienced with properly disclosing property and debt in your case.

Sample financial disclosure forms can be found at http://courts.ky.gov/resources/legalforms/Pages/legalformlibrary.aspx

Do I have to go to court if my divorce is uncontested?

One of the common questions asked by a husband or wife going through a divorce is whether a court appearance is required if neither side is contesting the divorce.

Family courts see dozens of parents and spouses fighting about custody, child support, how to divide property, and other issues on a weekly basis. The reason those people are at the courthouse is because they have been unable to resolve their differences outside of court, such as at a settlement conference, mediation, or even across the kitchen counter from one another.

Judges generally do not require divorcing couples to appear before them to finalize a legal separation or divorce. A motion for a divorce decree can be filed "off docket" as long as all necessary documents are properly filed and signed (including by a notary in certain situations). 

The difficulty for most people is getting their spouse to see eye-to-eye on all issues stemming from their marriage, as even if the parties agree on 99% of the proposed divorce terms, they may have to go to court to resolve all issues. Having an experienced divorce attorney not only increases your chances of not having to go to court by ensuring that divorce documents are properly filed and submitted to the judge, but also to help solidify an agreement on all aspects of your separation or divorce that are important to you.

 

Inclement Weather & Jefferson Family Courts

Today was one of the rare days when the Jefferson County Judicial Center (where the family courts in Louisville are located) was closed due to the impending snow storm.

Many may not know the best place to get information regarding bad weather and any impact on the hearing scheduled for that day in family court downtown. Here are some tips:

IPOs are the new EPOs

A new law goes into effect on January 1, 2016 in Kentucky that will permit the filing of new protective orders, and it is becoming more clear about which courts will hear these cases.

The new protective orders, called IPOs (for interpersonal protection order), will allow individuals who are in a dating relationship or believe they are being stalked to file a petition for relief. Presently, EPOs (emergency protective orders - which can become a DVO, or a domestic violence order, if a family court determines long-term protection is needed) only offer protection to those that are married, living together, or share a child.

While Jefferson Family Courts hear EPO/DVO cases, the dispute recently has been about what courts were going to hear these new cases - family court or Jefferson District court. The Chief Justice of Kentucky has said the cases will initially be heard in district court. These new orders can restrict communication between individuals and include a 500 foot separation barrier similar to EPOs and DVOs.

The Domestic Violence Intake Center in the Hall of Justice will handle the intake of all protective order cases. 

 

- Original story link: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2015/10/26/courts-share-duties-protect-dating-couples/73952740/

Electronic filing coming online in Jefferson County, Kentucky

Today our office took advantage of e-filing going live in Jefferson Family Court. 

Being able to file court documents online has been possible in other counties (such as Oldham) for months, but courts in Louisville were the last scheduled rollout across the state due to the volume of cases in the metro area.

The system did experience issues in the afternoon, but this evening we were able to successfully file a response and counter-petition on behalf of a divorce client. This new process should allow cost savings by minimizing trips to the courthouse and allowing court papers to be served by email. Attorneys must be trained in e-filing before they are eligible to use the system.

If you are interested in learning more about the project, please visit: http://courts.ky.gov/efiling/Pages/default.aspx

Facebook: Now Available to Serve Divorce Papers

A judge in Manhattan is permitting a nurse to serve her husband with notice of their divorce proceeding via Facebook.

Her divorce attorney, who pronounced the ruling as "new law", is being permitted to private message the defendant through the social media network "once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged."

The wife had conversed with her husband by phone and Facebook, and was informed that he had no fixed address and no place of employment. The post office had no forwarding address for him, and no addresses were able to be pulled from the DMV or his prepaid cell phone account, which led her to the unsuccessful hiring of a private detective. 

Full story: http://venturebeat.com/2015/04/06/judge-allows-divorce-papers-to-be-served-via-facebook/

Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Dating Violence Bill

Just before the end of the legislative session, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill that will allow protective orders for dating couples who are facing domestic violence, abuse, stalking and harassment.

EPOs & DVOs have been available for some time to other categories of individuals, such as married couples or parents who share a child, but this will be the first time in Kentucky that a law allows victims of dating violence to take out a protective order. Those orders will be called IPOs, short for Interpersonal Protective Order.

Read more here: http://www.wdrb.com/story/28605528/lawmakers-pass-several-bills-in-sprint-to-finish-line-of-2015-session

E-Filing for Family Law Cases now available in certain Kentucky counties

Although family courts in many Kentucky counties are closed today due to snow, the eCourts project in the Commonwealth took a step forward today with the announcement of certain domestic and family law cases now being available for electronic filing.

E-Filing is planned to be available in all Kentucky counties by the end of 2015, and has been available in certain counties for civil cases for several months. Today, however, marks the first time that divorce attorneys and others who are registered with the filing system can file documents in divorce, legal separation, and child custody / visitation/ support cases.

Thirty-seven (37) counties in Kentucky are now e-filing, including the local counties of Bullitt, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby and Spencer. Jefferson County is the last region scheduled to be brought onto the system. See the full rollout map here

Eligible family court cases must have a "CI" in the case number, which means that filing electronically in domestic violence (D) or paternity (J) cases is not yet available.

New cases that can be filed online are as follows:

  • Petition for dissolution of marriage (contested or uncontested, with or without children)
  • Petition for Legal Separation
  • Petition for Child Custody or Visitation
  • Petition for Child Support 

Subsequent filings that can be processed online, in addition to other motions or documents specifically for "Domestic & Family" cases, include:  

  • pendente lite motions
  • child support motions
  • court scheduling and docketing
  • evidentiary and discovery matters
  • counsel/representation
  • modification and enforcement 

A note to divorce lawyers and their staff: filing the VS-300 form must be completed by uploading the form in addition to filing an original VS-300 with the local circuit court clerk. So a decree will not be issued until the filer mails or hand-delivers a physical copy to the clerk's office.

Also, don't forget about re-opening fees. The statewide family court rules require a fee of $50.00 to be paid in domestic relations cases once six (6) months has passed from the divorce decree and either side wants to modify the order. When filing a motion using the online system, you must answer “Does this motion ask to reopen the case and modify the decree after six months of its entry?” Failing to pay the required fee will result in the motion being rejected.

Anyone interested in registering to become an eFiler who has not already been trained can find more info here: http://courts.ky.gov/efiling/Pages/training.aspx

New Jefferson Family Court Term holds first forum of 2015

Yesterday, on February 25, 2015, the first Family Court Forum of the year was held from 4 to 6pm in the jury pool assembly hall in downtown Louisville.

As a follow up to our post before the election, here is the rundown of the current family court judges in Jefferson County (* - denotes new family court judge):

  1. Hon. Angela Johnson*
  2. Hon. Hugh Smith Haynie
  3. Hon. Deborah Deweese*
  4. Hon. Dolly Wisman Berry
  5. Hon. Tara Hagerty*
  6. Hon. Christine Ward*
  7. Hon. Denise Brown*
  8. Hon. Deana "Dee" McDonald*
  9. Hon. Stephen M. George
  10. Hon. Paula Sherlock
2015familycourtjudges

Judge Sherlock is the chief judge for this year's term of judges. She opened the forum and each judge made individual remarks about the first eight (8) weeks of the year from their judicial perspective. Judge George provided a legislative update, including the dating violence bill. Representatives from the family court clerk's office were present to answer questions, and attorney Rexena Napier provided an update as chair of the Louisville Bar Association family law section.