Kentucky Divorce Law

Divorce – State Law Summary – Kentucky

Notes: This summary is not intended to be an all-inclusive summary of the laws of divorce in Kentucky, but does contain basic and other procedures.

The only ground upon which divorce is granted in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage of which there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. KRS 35.403.170

Residency requirements
At least one of the parties to the divorce action must have resided in Kentucky for a period of one hundred and eighty (180) days prior to the commencement of the action. KRS 35.403.140

Procedure Commencement of action, pleadings, abolition of existing defenses:
(1) All proceedings under this chapter are commenced in the manner provided by the Rules of Civil Procedure.

(2) The verified petition in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation shall allege the marriage is irretrievably broken and shall set forth:

(a)The age,occcupation, Social Security number, and residence of each party and his length of residence in this state. If domestic violence and abuse, as defined in KRS 403.720, is alleged by either party, the party filing the petition shall certify the existence and status of any domestic violence protective orders. The party filing the petition and alleging the abuse may substitute the party’s attorney’s address as the address of the party and any minor children;

(b) The date of the marriage and the place at which it was registered;

(c) That the parties are separated and the date on which the parties separated;

(d) The names, ages, Social Security numbers, and addresses of any living infant children of the marriage, and whether the wife is pregnant;

(e) Any arrangements as to custody, visitation, and support of the children and the maintenance of a spouse; and

(f) The relief sought.

(3) Either or both parties to the marriage may initiate the proceeding.

(4) If a proceeding is commenced by one of the parties, the other party must be served in the manner provided by the Rules of Civil Procedure and may file a verified response.

(5) Previously existing defenses to divorce and legal separation, including but not limited to condonation, connivance, collusion, recrimination, insanity, and lapse of time, are abolished.

(6) The court may join additional parties proper for the exercise of its authority to implement this chapter.

(7) When the wife is pregnant at the time the petition is filed, the court may continue the case until the pregnancy is terminated. KRS 35.403.150

Where to file
The petition for dissolution of marriage may be filed in the county where either spouse resides. KRS 35.452.470

Waiting period
Kentucky law provides that no divorce shall issue until the parties have lived separate and apart for sixty (60) days. Living separate and apart can mean that the parties share the same domicile, as long as they have no sexual relations between each other during that period of time.

In divorce actions where there are minor children of the marriage, no testimony other than on temporary motions shall be taken or heard before sixty days have elapsed from the date of service of the summons, the appointment of a warning order attorney, or the filing of an entry of appearance or responsive pleading by the defendant, whichever occurs first. KRS 35.403.170

Separation agreements
Kentucky permits the parties to enter into written separation agreements in order to promote amicable settlements of disputes. Such agreements may contain provisions for the maintenance of either spouse, disposition of any property owned by either of them, and custody, support and visitation issues regarding their children. The terms of such an agreement are binding upon the parties and the court, unless the court finds that the agreement is unconscionable, in which case the court may request the parties to submit a revised separation agreement or make its own orders regarding those issues. KRS 35.403.180

Legal separation
The court may render a decree of divorce from bed and board for any grounds that a decree of dissolution of marriage may be issued or for any other cause the court deems sufficient. KRS 35.403.050, 403.140

Mediation requirements
If one party to the divorce action denies under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken or continue the matter for further hearing not fewer than thirty (30) days or more than sixty (60) days later. KRS 35.403.170

The court may award temporary or permanent alimony to either spouse upon a showing that: the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs; and is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition is such that seeking employment would not be appropriate.

Factors the court will consider in determining the amount and duration of the award of support include such things as the financial resources of the party seeking support; the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the person seeking support to find appropriate employment; the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage; the age, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking support, and; the ability of the payor spouse to meet his needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking support. KRS 35.403.200

Distribution of property
In an action for dissolution of marriage, the court will first set aside to each spouse that spouse’s separate property. The court will then distribute the marital property following the principles of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution means that the court will divide the property in a manner that it deems fair and just to the parties, taking into consideration such factors as: the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property; the value of the property set aside to each spouse; the duration of the marriage and; the economic circumstances of each spouse when the division of property becomes effective.

Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided for in the decree, the obligation to pay support terminates upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the party receiving support. KRS 35.403.190

Child custody
The court will determine custody based upon the best interests of the child. Equal consideration of each spouse will be given in making the custody determination. Some of the factors the court will consider in making the custody determination include: the wishes of the child; the interaction of the child with his parents and siblings; the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community, and; the mental and physical health of all parties concerned.

The court may interview the child in chambers regarding the child “s wishes as to his custodian or visitation, and the court may seek the advice of a profession to assist the court in reaching a decision on those issues. If the custody proceeding is contested, the court may order an investigation and report concerning custodial arrangements for the child.

A parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court makes a specific finding that such visitation would not be in the child’s best interests.

No custody decree may be modified any earlier than two (2) years after its date, unless the court finds that the child’s present environment may seriously endanger his physical, mental or emotional health or the child has been placed with a de facto custodian. The party seeking to modify the custody decree must submit to the court an affidavit setting forth the facts supporting the modification and must provide notice to the opposing party. KRS 35.403.270

Child support
Kentucky has established child support guidelines which serve as the presumed correct amount of support to be paid. Courts may deviate from these guidelines only upon a specific showing that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. Any deviation from the guidelines must include a specific written finding stating the reason for the deviation. The obligation to provide child support shall terminate upon the emancipation of the minor child unless the child is eighteen (18) years old and still in high school. If the child turns eighteen (18) while still in high school, the support obligation shall continue until the completion of the school year in which the child turns nineteen (19) years old.

If healthcare coverage is reasonable and available, the court shall allocate between the parties, in proportion to their adjusted gross income, the cost of healthcare coverage for the child. If coverage is not reasonable and available, the court shall order that such coverage be provided at the time it becomes reasonable and available.

All court orders of child support shall include the Social Security numbers of all parties subject to the support order.

A child support award may only be modified upon a showing of a material change of circumstances which would result in a fifteen percent (15%) change in the amount of support paid. KRS 35.403.211

Name change
Upon request by the wife whose marriage has been dissolved and if there are no children of the marriage, the court may order that her maiden or former name be restored. KRS 35.403.230

Family Court Information: There are ten (10) Family Courts covering the Counties below by act of the legislature. In these Counties, the Family Court, as a division of the Circuit Court, handles dissolutions. The Counties are:


Inside Kentucky Divorce Law