Hard data shows that the likelihood of divorce in Kentucky is high. The Bluegrass State is tied for eighth place with Mississippi, Utah, and Tennessee for the highest divorce rates per state.
The divorce rate in Kentucky was 3.4 in 2019, 3.1 in 2020, and 3.3 in 2021, a relatively consistent trend. Kentucky marriage rates, on the other hand, had not been as consistent in the same period; they went from 6.3 in 2019 to 4.9 in 2020 before going back to 6.3 in 2021. The CDC calculates the divorce and marriage rates based on provisional counts per 1,000 of the total population residing in the state.
This article aims to educate Kentucky residents about state laws governing divorce and the processes involved for individuals seeking the dissolution of a marriage.
Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Kentucky
A marriage does not always work out, and Kentucky couples who have decided that they can no longer co-exist with each other have three different options regarding the end of their union: divorce, legal separation, and annulment.
Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage
Ending a marriage through the courts in Kentucky is called a divorce or a dissolution of marriage. The state follows the no-fault law in divorce, which means the petitioner does not need to prove that the other party was at fault for the judge to grant a dissolution of marriage. They only need to meet the residency requirement of at least 180 days before the petition is filed.
A divorce may also be contested or uncontested, depending on whether the couple has agreed on matters involving property division, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. If both parties cannot agree on a settlement, the case will be treated as a contested divorce, and the court will make the final ruling.
Legal separation in Kentucky differs from an annulment or divorce because both parties remain married by law at the conclusion of the case. It is similar to a divorce case because it will try to put both parties back in the same position before they were married, except they will not be able to remarry. Some couples in Kentucky choose legal separation instead of divorce because of religious beliefs, the chance for reconciliation, or for the benefit of their children.
An annulment in Kentucky differs from legal separation and divorce because instead of ending or making changes to the marriage, it wholly invalidates the marriage. This means each person was never legally married. The grounds for an annulment take into consideration whether one spouse was forced into the marriage, was impotent, or was already married at the time.
Is Kentucky a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Yes, separating couples in Kentucky can file for a no-fault divorce. This means neither party is required to prove fault for a divorce to be granted. Divorce in Kentucky only requires the person filing for divorce to be a resident of Kentucky for at least 180 days or have been a member of the armed services stationed in the state for 180 days.
How to File for Divorce in Kentucky
It is recommended to consult legal professionals when filing for divorce in Kentucky, given the laws that must be observed. The petitioner could hire a lawyer to guide them throughout the process and help them protect their legal rights in court.
It is also essential that the individual petitioning for divorce knows the residency requirement for the state and has determined the grounds for the dissolution of marriage.
1. Completing and submitting the required paperwork
Couples in Kentucky who are planning to divorce must first complete and submit the necessary documents to their local family court. To start the divorce process, one party must file a document called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Depending on the circumstances of the marriage and the type of divorce filed, the petitioner might be required to submit other documents, such as:
An Entry of Appearance and Waiver or Civil Summons;
A Case Data Information Sheet; and
A signed marital settlement agreement.
For uncontested divorce cases in Kentucky, either spouse can file for divorce, or they can file jointly. Couples with children may need to file additional or different forms, depending on the county.
Individuals should check the Kentucky Courts website to find out where they should file the divorce papers and if they need to complete additional forms. There are also filing fees that the petitioner must pay, which may differ from each county. Those who cannot pay the court filing fees may submit a form requesting a waiver of the cost.
2. Serving Divorce Papers to the Spouse
After filing the divorce paperwork, the petitioner must provide notice to their spouse by delivering copies of the documents. The individual is not allowed to serve the divorce documents themselves, but there are several ways of delivering the paperwork in Kentucky, including:
Hiring a process server or sheriff who will personally deliver the papers;
Asking the court clerk to mail the documents via registered U.S. mail with the return receipt requested;
Requesting the clerk to issue a warning order so that a court-appointed attorney will try to locate their spouse.
A warning order is usually issued when the petitioner does not know where their spouse is. The divorce process will proceed once the court-appointed attorney reports back with their findings. If the other party decides to waive the service of process, they could file an Entry of Appearance and Waiver with the court to streamline the divorce process.
3. Waiting for the other party to respond
The petitioner’s spouse will have 20 days to respond to the official notification, regardless of the method taken. If the other party does not take part in the divorce case, they will be at a disadvantage in matters relating to child custody and property division.
The court will proceed with a default divorce if there is no response, which means the judge will base their decision on what the petitioner has said and will make a default judgment.
4. The finalization of the Divorce
Finalizing a divorce differs based on whether the spouse agrees or disagrees with the information in the divorce papers.
If the respondent disagrees with the petitioner, they have the opportunity to file papers presenting their side. They may also request a series of court appearances with a judge to sort out issues such as the grounds for divorce, parenting time, child support, medical expenses, and insurance coverage. Assets, property, debt, and pensions must also be divided during settlement negotiations or court hearings for the divorce to be granted.
The court will make the final decision regarding issues that the spouses could not reach an agreement on, but both parties are allowed to present arguments and supporting evidence for their cause.
If the respondent agrees with the divorce papers, they must submit their response to the judge and discuss their post-divorce life with their spouse to reach a settlement agreement that will be incorporated into their divorce decree.
5. Waiting period
If the couple has not lived apart from one another for at least 60 days, the court cannot grant the dissolution of marriage. This requirement can also be fulfilled even if the couple is still living together, as long as no sexual activity is taking place during the said period.
How Property is Divided in a Kentucky Divorce
Property division is among the most common issues in divorce cases. Dividing property is more than just land and real estate; it also includes cash, debt, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal property.
Kentucky divorce cases follow the equitable distribution rule, which means only property acquired during the marriage will be divided.
Before dividing the property, the court determines which is considered separate property and which is considered marital property. Examples of marital property include:
Property purchased during the marriage under a joint account;
Property acquired before the marriage but the title is held by both spouses;
Property that was originally considered a separate property but has increased in value because of the financial or labor-driven improvements made by the spouse while married.
Property bought before the marriage, during the marriage through an inheritance or a gift from a third party, or during the marriage through the exchange or sale of separate property is not subject to division. It is also known as "separate property" in the premarital agreement.
Once the marital property is determined, spouses can reach their own property agreements outside of court, assigning certain items to each party and making equal payments if one spouse gets substantially more. Both of them could also continue to own property together if they both agree that it would be beneficial to them.
The court will still evaluate the property agreement and can veto it or parts of it if they consider it unfair to one person.
If the couple cannot reach an agreement on how they will divide the property, the court will divide the property based on factors such as:
The length of marriage;
The value of the property awarded to each party;
Each person’s contribution to acquiring the marital property;
Each spouse’s economic needs and circumstances.
Kentucky Divorce FAQs
Going through the divorce process could be one of the most difficult experiences a person could encounter. This part of the article answers some frequently asked questions regarding Kentucky divorce cases.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Kentucky
People intent on getting a divorce are encouraged to seek legal counsel because the process could be difficult emotionally and requires a basic understanding of certain rules and regulations. Those who have been served divorce papers may also experience being overwhelmed and may not be prepared to handle the case. There are several organizations in Kentucky that could provide legal assistance to those in need.
Kentucky Justice Online
The Kentucky Justice Online website was created through the partnership of four legal aid programs operating in Kentucky. It is a free legal resource that provides up-to-date information on several topics, including divorce-related issues such as child support, parenting time, and spousal maintenance. The goal of the Kentucky Justice Online website is to provide residents of the state with resources and assistance in an accessible format. It is managed by the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky.
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc.
The Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc., is also known as “AppalReD Legal Aid”. It is a private nonprofit law firm that provides eligible low-income people in the Appalachian Mountains with free civil legal assistance. It works on domestic violence and family law cases, such as those involving divorces, protective orders, child custody, and adoption. The firm also helps people resolve cases involving issues with employment, education, taxes, and expungements. It does not handle property disputes, adoptions, or name changes.
Individuals who want to find out if they are eligible for their legal services should contact their Central Intake Office at 1-866-277-5733. They could also make an online application at https://www.ardfky.org/node/29/online-application.
The Legal Aid of the Bluegrass represents people from 33 Kentucky counties. Its mission is to provide legal services to vulnerable and low-income residents of Kentucky. The organization assists people in divorce cases by representing them in civil administrative hearings, offering legal advice, and providing self-help forms and materials. Its focus on divorce and family law matters is to ensure that both spouses get fair divisions of marital property and that parenting time arrangements are in the child’s best interest. The Legal Aid of the Bluegrass hosts legal clinics to offer legal information and pro se assistance.
To contact the organization, individuals should call their central intake at 859-431-8200. They can also apply online at https://apply.lablaw.org/.
The Legal Aid Society offers free civil legal assistance to families and individuals in Kentucky with incomes that are at or below 125% to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. It handles legal matters relating to divorce, child support, child custody, and spousal support. The organization focuses on being accessible to all clients, including those who have limited proficiency in English or those with special needs.
Kentucky residents who want to apply for Legal Aid Society’s services should call 502-584-1254 or 800-292-1862. Individuals will be asked about their income, their residence, and their legal problems to find out if they are eligible for legal assistance. They could also apply online at https://intake.yourlegalaid.org/viewer/viewer.html#!view/pages/page/1%20-%20Welcome.
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