The Kentucky trial court system consists of Circuit Courts and District Courts.
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all types of cases and District Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Circuit Courts generally only hear cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of District Courts.
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Kentucky Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases but generally only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of District Courts.
Criminal cases heard by Circuit Courts include felonies, capital crimes and lesser-included offenses.
Civil cases heard by Circuit Courts include civil cases with more than $5,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs. Circuit Courts also handle dissolution of marriage, adoption, disputes about title to real estate, contested probate cases and reviews of administrative agency decisions.
Some Circuit Courts have Family Court divisions that handle cases such as divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, adoption, termination of parental rights, child neglect, child abuse, and domestic violence. The Family Court division shares jurisdiction over some types of cases with District Courts.
Circuit Courts, Family Court divisions and District Courts may have Drug Court divisions, to provide an alternative to incarceration for certain cases involving drug use. Drug Courts supervise the progress of an individual as they participate in a drug rehabilitation program.
Kentucky District CourtsDistrict Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by the District Courts include violations of county or city ordinances, most misdemeanor criminal cases, and preliminary hearings for felony or capital criminal cases.
Civil cases heard by District Courts include civil cases with less than $5,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs. District Courts also handle uncontested probate matters, reviews of local administrative agency decisions, guardianships, conservatorships, voluntary and involuntary commitments and cases involving domestic violence.
District Courts each have a Juvenile Court division that handles cases that include child neglect, child abuse, runaways, juvenile delinquency and some criminal offenses. Juvenile Court divisions of District Courts share some jurisdiction over certain types of cases with the Family Court divisions in Circuit Courts.
The Small Claims Court division handles most general civil cases with less than $2,500 in dispute between all parties to a case. Certain types of claims and certain types of parties are prohibited in Small Claims Court. Jury trials are not available in Small Claims Court, but if the Defendant makes a proper request, the case will be transferred to another court.
District Courts may have Drug Court divisions, to provide an alternative to incarceration for certain cases involving drug use. Drug Courts supervise the progress of an individual as they participate in a drug rehabilitation program.
Teen Court divisions may be available in District Courts for children aged ten to seventeen who have either entered a plea of guilt or have been found guilty by a court of a minor criminal offense. This specialized program offers first-time offenders the chance to complete an alternative sentence and avoid a formal criminal record.
Where to find court cases in KentuckyThe chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of court in Kentucky.