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Información Legal: Kentucky

Kentucky: Divorce

Leyes actualizadas al
15 de noviembre de 2023

Below you will find basic information about divorce in Kentucky.

What are the residency requirements for divorce in Kentucky?

A judge can grant you a divorce if either you or your spouse:

  • are living in Kentucky when the divorce petition is filed; and 
  • have lived in Kentucky for at least 180 days immediately before the divorce petition was filed.1

“Living in Kentucky” includes being stationed in Kentucky as a member of the armed services.1

1 KRS § 403.140(1)(a)

What are the grounds for divorce in Kentucky?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce. The only ground in Kentucky is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which means that there is no reasonable prospect of you and your spouse reconciling (getting back together). The judge can grant you a divorce if:

  • both spouses state that the marriage is irretrievably broken; or
  • one spouse states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the other does not deny it.1

However, if either spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge will consider:

  • the circumstances of why the divorce petition was filed;
  • the possible chances of reconciliation (fixing the marriage); and
  • any other relevant factors.2

After considering these things, the judge will then decide whether your marriage is in fact irretrievably broken or the judge could continue the hearing for 30-60 days and request that you and your spouse seek counseling. At the next hearing, the judge would then decide whether or not your marriage is irretrievably broken.2

1 KRS § 403.170(1)
2 KRS § 403.170(2)

What additional requirements must be met before the judge can issue a divorce?

The judge cannot grant the final divorce decree until you and your spouse have lived apart for 60 days but ”living apart” can include living under the same roof without any sexual activity.1

In addition, the judge must have considered, approved, or made a provision for child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution if the judge has jurisdiction (power) to make those decisions.2

1 KRS § 403.170(1)
2 KRS § 403.140(1)(d)

Can I get alimony?

Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. A judge can grant you alimony if s/he finds that you do not have enough property or assets to meet your needs and one of the following is true:

  • you are unable to support yourself through an appropriate job; or
  • you have a child that you must stay at home to care for due to the child’s condition or other circumstances that make it inappropriate for you to work outside of the home.1

If the judge decides to award you alimony, s/he will determine how much to award, and for how long to order it, after looking at the following factors:

  • your financial resources, including marital property being awarded to you, and your ability to meet your needs without your spouse;
  • whether you will be receiving child support;
  • the time and cost that it would take you to get training or education to find an appropriate job;
  • your standard of living during your marriage;
  • how long you were married to your spouse;
  • your age and physical/mental condition; and
  • your spouse’s ability to meet her/his needs while supporting you.2

1 KRS § 403.200(1)
2 KRS § 403.200(2)

What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow to obtain a divorce:

  • First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.) For the exact rules for serving the papers in your county, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.   
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side.  In his/her response, the other party may express his/her opinion challenging the divorce, asking that it be granted under different grounds or letting the judge know that s/he agrees to the divorce.  If your spouse contests the divorce, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway.  (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce.)
  • Fifth, if there are property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues.  The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce.  Custody and child support may also be decided as part of your divorce.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Kentucky?

Legal Aid Network of Kentucky has a information on divorce, including what issues must be decided in a divorce, legal separation, and links to the filing fees. WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide the following links for your information only.

You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.