Grounds for Divorce & Property in Kentucky
By Heather Frances J.D.
When spouses divorce in Kentucky, they can reach agreement about how their property should be divided, and the court can adopt that agreement in the divorce decree. If spouses don’t agree, the court makes its own distribution decision. Kentucky courts do not consider grounds for divorce when making decisions about how to divide property, and they generally do not consider marital misconduct.
Kentucky is a pure no-fault divorce state, which means the only ground, or reason, for divorce in Kentucky is the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. If one spouse states the marriage is broken and the other does not deny it, the court will likely decide the marriage is irretrievably broken and grant a divorce. If one spouse denies the marriage is broken, the court makes a determination after hearing both sides, and it may order a conciliation meeting before ruling on the divorce.
Kentucky is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that Kentucky courts divide marital property equitably, but not necessarily equally. However, courts often do divide property equally when they feel an equal split is the most equitable division. Generally, the court does not have authority to divide a spouse’s separate property, which includes assets acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance. Other property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property and is divisible by the court.
Kentucky courts do not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment, as grounds for divorce, nor do they typically consider marital misconduct when dividing property. In Kentucky, it doesn’t matter who caused the divorce; property is divided the same no matter whose actions split up the marriage. However, if one spouse’s misconduct leads to the waste or dissipation of marital property, the court can consider this when issuing a property division decision. For example, if one spouse conducts an extramarital affair and spends marital money on that affair, the court may consider that waste of marital assets when dividing the remaining marital property.
Kentucky courts can award maintenance — also called alimony or spousal support — to either spouse if it finds that one spouse does not have sufficient property to provide for his needs and cannot support himself by finding a job. The court cannot consider marital misconduct when deciding whether a spouse should receive maintenance, but it can consider it when deciding how much maintenance to award. Thus, if the court determines maintenance is appropriate in a particular case, it can then consider the spouses’ misconduct, if any, to decide how much the paying spouse should pay.
- Fort Knox Legal Assistance Office: Legal Briefs: Kentucky Divorce Law
- Cordell Cordell: Kentucky Divorce and Family Law Information
- HG: Kentucky Divorce Basics
- Dana L. Skaggs and Associates: Maintenance
- Troutman & Napier, PLLC: Misconduct in the Dissipation of Marital Assets Can Be Considered in Property Division/Maintenance
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.