Alimony Laws in Kentucky
By Bernadette A. Safrath
Alimony, called "maintenance" in Kentucky, may be awarded to one spouse during a dissolution of marriage proceeding. Maintenance is awarded regardless of gender and on a permanent or temporary basis, depending on the financial circumstances of each spouse. The basic eligibility requirements to receive alimony are a lack of assets after division of marital property, or an inability to maintain employment with income sufficient to be self-supporting.
There are several types of maintenance a court may award. One type called "temporary maintenance" is awarded on a short-term basis while a dissolution of marriage is in process. The requesting spouse must submit a list of assets and expenses to the court and the court will determine eligibility. Temporary maintenance payments terminate immediately upon the finalization of the dissolution.
If the need for maintenance continues after the dissolution, a spouse may be eligible for rehabilitative or permanent maintenance. Permanent maintenance is rare and is only awarded when the spouses were married for at least 10 years, if the receiving spouse earns no income or an income that is significantly less than the owing spouse's income, or when the receiving spouse has a medical issue that prevents her from working. The more common type of maintenance is rehabilitative maintenance. It is available when spouses were in a short-term marriage; it is usually limited to five years, although the common formula for duration is half the length of the marriage. A spouse can request rehabilitative maintenance if she needs time to obtain suitable employment, including time needed for training and education.
Amount and Duration
Once a Kentucky court determines that a spouse is eligible for maintenance, it examines several factors to set the amount and duration of payments. These factors include each spouse's age and health, the length of the marriage, the value of each spouse's assets, each spouse's income, any circumstances that prevent the receiving spouse from maintaining employment including her role as primary caretaker of minor children, her financial need, the owing spouse's ability to pay, and the length of time the receiving spouse needs to receive training or education to obtain sufficient employment.
Lump-sum maintenance awards are considered "closed" and not modifiable. This means that if a court orders a specific amount in maintenance, that amount must be paid in full, whether payment is made in one lump sum or over time in monthly installments. However, any other maintenance order can be modified. A Kentucky court may increase or decrease maintenance payments as requested by either spouse, if a spouse experiences a "material change in circumstances" such as a loss of employment or a significant illness or injury that alters the spouse's ability to work.
Lump-sum maintenance terminates after the amount ordered is paid in full. All other maintenance orders terminate on a date determined by the court. However, under Kentucky law, maintenance can terminate prematurely in several circumstances: if either spouse dies, maintenance payments terminate. Additionally, a spouse receiving maintenance is no longer entitled to payments when she remarries or if she cohabitates with a third party in a marriage-like relationship.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.