Default Judgments in Kansas in a Divorce

By Heather Frances J.D.

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By the time you get ready to file for divorce, you and your spouse may not be getting along well enough to cooperate during the divorce proceeding. Your spouse may decide to ignore the divorce paperwork you filed, thinking that will stop the divorce or make you angry. Unfortunately for your spouse, Kansas courts can grant default judgments in divorce cases, giving you a divorce even when your spouse does not want to participate in the process.

Filing for Divorce

You cannot obtain a default judgment or any other type of divorce judgment until you actually file a petition for divorce in Kansas. To file for divorce, you must complete the petition for divorce form along with several other required documents. The petition includes basic information about you, your spouse and your children, along with the details of the relief you are requesting from the court, including property, spousal support and child custody arrangements. Once complete, you must file these forms with the clerk of the appropriate district court and pay a filing fee.

Serving Your Spouse

You must officially serve your spouse with copies of these documents after you file them. If you can't later prove to the court that you properly served your spouse, the court will not grant a default judgment in your divorce. Kansas allows you to have a sheriff serve your spouse; you can request this type of service at the time you file your paperwork as long as your spouse lives in Kansas. You can also mail the paperwork via certified mail, return receipt requested, to your spouse’s last known residential address. If you cannot serve your spouse with one of these methods, the court may allow you to fulfill the service requirements by publishing notice in an approved local newspaper, but this type of notice requires special court permission and paperwork.

Default Judgment

Your spouse can file a response to your divorce petition, either disputing or agreeing with some or all of its contents. If your spouse simply ignores the divorce papers and does not respond, the court can enter a judgment without his input, called a default judgment. Kansas courts can enter a default judgment as soon as 60 days after you file your divorce papers. Since your spouse’s side of the divorce case is not represented when he fails to file a response, the court can grant not only the divorce but also the relief you asked for in your original petition.

Reversing a Default Judgment

Default judgments can be set aside or changed later for good cause. This includes clerical errors or mistakes, such as the misspelling of a name; it also includes completely reversing the entire judgment under certain circumstances. For example, if you obtain a default judgment by deliberately mailing the divorce papers to an address where you know your spouse never lived, a Kansas court could reverse the default judgment because of this fraud. Your spouse must make a motion to change or set aside a judgment within a reasonable time, often not more than one year after the judgment was issued.