This is a complete guide to divorce in Kentucky.
In this guide, we’ll address your burning questions regarding the dissolution of marriage – including some you probably didn’t even think to ask.
So if you want to make sure you’re prepared to go to court and start the divorce process, we’re here to help.
Let’s get started:
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Kentucky?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Kentucky without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Kentucky?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- What is the role of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Bifurcation of Marital Status
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Kentucky?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The differences between divorce, annulment and legal separation
Married couples can end their marriages by divorce or annulment in Kentucky. Legal separation is also permitted, but a couple will still remain married after this action takes place.
Legal Separation. Legal separation is much different from a simple physical separation between two people. Legal separation requires an actual court action to put certain provisions in place, even though a couple will still remain married.
Some spouses choose legal separation and decide not to file for a divorce when a couple might reconcile or wants to preserve the marriage for the sake of their minor children, health insurance, religion, or other reasons. This might be for religious, social or health insurance implications. It allows a married couple to take a time out and explore the option of living independently from each other both physically and financially, without proceeding with the dissolution of marriage – even though there may be some grounds for divorce.
Legal separation in Kentucky requires that things like a division of assets, marital property, child custody, and child support be decided as if a divorce petition has been filed and marriage was actually being dissolved. Both spouses must enter into the agreement and sign off on the provisions as part of a separation agreement.
For legal separation to take place, at least one spouse must be a resident of Kentucky for at least 180 days prior to filing and that the two spouses have lived apart from each other form at least 60 days. There is then a 60-day waiting period from when you file your request to when the judge can approve or deny it.
At any time, the legal separation can be converted to an actual divorce case by either party. However, keep in mind that in Kentucky, divorce laws state that you must be legally separated for a minimum of one year before either spouse can ask for a formal divorce. You can hire an attorney to help you deal with the divorce process.
Annulment. Annulments can be granted in Kentucky and mean that a marriage is considered null and void, as if it never happened. This is different from a divorce which simply ends a marriage.
To be granted an annulment in Kentucky, you must meet one of the following conditions that were present at the time the marriage took place:
- one of the spouses was already married at the time of the second marriage (bigamy)
- one spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage
- a spouse was unable to consent to the marriage or was forced into the marriage
- one spouse defrauded the other spouse about something essential to the marriage
- a spouse was impotent and could not perform sexual intercourse
- the couple is more closely related than second cousin (incest)
There is a statute of limitations to filing an annulment for some conditions. As a resident of Kentucky, you must file within 90 days of finding out the reason for the annulment if it is due to force, duress or fraud. For any of the other reasons, you have one year to file from the time of discovery.
Divorce. Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage. All ties are severed, assets, property and debts are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Kentucky?
Kentucky only allows for divorce on a no-fault basis. This means all you must do when you file for divorce in Kentucky is state that the marriage is irretrievably broken. No other explanations are needed, and you will not need to state a specific reason for the divorce beyond that.
What kind of divorce is right for you?
One of the first things you must decide is what kind of divorce you want. There are several possible options in Kentucky.
Determining what kind of divorce you want is critical because it sets the stage for several other decisions and activities you will need to pursue, especially when minor children are involved.
The relationship you have with your spouse will be a primary consideration. If you can agree to work together and trust each other to come to amicable decisions, you may be able to save a lot of time, money and grief instead of going through a fully contested case.
Before we get into the details, there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind:
One type of divorce is not “better” than another. Divorce is not one size fits all.
Here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money – a divorce without the support of an attorney may not end well for you, especially if you want to come up with a custody agreement and fairly divide your financial resources.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures without an experienced attorney or a legal professional can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse. You both have reasonable needs, want to divorce without a fuss, and come up with an agreement beneficial to all individuals involved.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away from the most supportive type of divorce.
To learn more about your divorce options in Kentucky, be sure to check out our guide on The Types of Divorce. This will help you form the most strategic and appropriate direction for your set of circumstances.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Kentucky?
The basics of all divorces in Kentucky are pretty much the same no matter what direction and method you choose – just remember you must be separated from your spouse for at lease 60 days prior to serving them with divorce papers. There are some initial steps that need to be handled so that you can move on to the next phase of the process.
Gather important information. To give yourself the best chance to achieve at achieving the best possible outcome, you need to be organized and proactive when it comes to pulling together the information you will need.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
This is only a partial list of the information to gather. To assist you, we’ve put together a checklist of the types of things you may need if you want to file for divorce in Kentucky. Definitely take a look at our guide: The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
Complete the initial paperwork. After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to fill out several forms and submit them to the court to start your divorce in Kentucky.
You can retain an attorney to help you with this process. An experienced divorce attorney will make sure you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
If you proceed with the divorce in Kentucky on your own, at a minimum, you will need to complete the summons and petition for divorce, the case data information sheet, and the certificate of divorce.
If children are part of the divorce, you will need to complete several additional forms as well. If you are attempting to go through an uncontested divorce, you should also be prepared to submit a marital settlement agreement as well.
Court personnel cannot provide legal advice regarding divorce proceedings, but they will check to make sure your forms are completed properly.
File your forms. You should file your case with the Circuit Court Clerk or the Family Clerk Court of the County where you reside.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Once a spouse has been served, they have 20 days to file a response.
Completing proof of service in Kentucky
In Kentucky, proof of service must be completed by making sure divorce paperwork is delivered to the other spouse. This can be done either by certified mail, or by having a person over 18 years old personally deliver the paperwork. This is usually done by a professional process server or a sheriff or constable.
Kentucky laws gives a petitioner 45 days from the date of filing to complete proof of service. If you don’t serve the papers within 45 days, the court clerk will automatically dismiss your case.
If a spouse has not hired a lawyer, then paperwork should be served at their home address. If they have an attorney, then paperwork should be delivered to the attorney’s office.
If you don’t know where your spouse is and have no reasonable means of finding out where they are, you can file a motion to appoint a warning order attorney. A warning order attorney is a member of the Kentucky Bar who is required to make diligent efforts to locate your spouse and inform him/her by mail that you have filed for a divorce in Kentucky.
The warning order attorney has to report back to the court within 50 days of his appointment with the result of his efforts to locate the defendant.
You can ask the court to finalize your divorce, even if the warning order attorney does not locate your spouse, only after the warning order attorney files his report after the 50-day period expires.
Can you file for divorce online in Kentucky?
If you have no minor children, you can file a Dissolution of Marriage with the court by using the state’s interactive forms and file online.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
If you don’t qualify to file for a divorce online, there are still several services and private attorneys who will expedite the paperwork through electronic means.
While you can still complete much of the process this way, you will still need to go to court and file your divorce paperwork in person.
Filing for divorce in Kentucky without using a lawyer
You can file for divorce in Kentucky without the help of an attorney.
This is best accomplished if both spouses are in agreement and there is little property that you need to divide. You should probably not use the state’s self-help forms if you and your spouse have parenting disagreements over minor children or if you own a valuable business.
If you want to file for divorce and need a referral to an attorney, you can contact the Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service at (502) 583-1801. Going this route allows you to request attorneys who have agreed to accept cases at a reduced rate.
How much will it cost?
The court will charge a $113 filing fee when you submit your paperwork. Some counties may have a slightly different fee schedule, so it’s best to check with the county court where you will file if you want to be sure of the exact amount.
You will also need to pay a fee to have paperwork served on your spouse, either by the sheriff or by a private process server. These fees will vary depending on the method you choose, but should run from about $25 to $50.
If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you can request a fee waiver. You will submit a motion to the court, called an Affidavit and Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, and if a judge decides you qualify, you will not have to pay the required fees.
Also, if you have minor children, you may need to attend a Families in Transition class that helps small children get through a divorce. There is an additional fee for this as well, but it is based on a sliding scale, so lack of finances is not a reason to not attend the class.
If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator, costs will generally range between $3,000 and $7,000.
If there are any unresolved issues regarding your divorce, expect to pay legal fees that will range from $200 to $500 per hour. The exact overall cost will be determined by how complicated your case is and how many hours are required to resolve it.
Fully contested divorces can run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on how contentious the divorce is, what kind of assets are involved, and how much disagreement there is with child custody and support issues.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Kentucky?
Couples with children in Kentucky will generally need to wait at least 60 days and then attend the Families in Transition class before final papers can be filed. It can take longer than this depending on the court’s backlog and if there are any other outstanding issues between the two parties.
Couples without children can get through the process quicker, but this depends on whether the divorce is uncontested or not or how long it takes to resolve issues such as alimony or a division of marital assets.
The divorce can be finalized either by going to court for a final hearing or by giving the court papers showing you and your spouse have agreed on all of the issues.
Should I work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
Many spouses in Kentucky retain a family law attorney to assist them with their divorce. Depending on the circumstances, this may be enough representation to handle all aspects of the case.
But there are times when finances are multi-layered, complex or deal with a large number of assets. This can create all sorts of financial and tax implications that need to be thought out beforehand to avoid big surprises later on.
If this is your case, you should strongly consider working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Bifurcation of marital status
Bifurcation of marital status essentially means dividing a divorce into two parts and is allowed in Kentucky.
The first part satisfies the grounds for the divorce and allows the couple to get divorced legally. The second part is addressed at a later date and works out the financial aspects of the divorce such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Kentucky?
No. If a spouse wants to divorce you in Kentucky, there is nothing you can do about it.
But if divorce paperwork has been filed, but a final decree has not been issued, it is possible for the petitioner (not the defendant) to request a dismissal of the complaint. This will end the divorce action.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage in Kentucky. It spells out, in detail, the rights and responsibilities of each person, including a division of assets, alimony, custody agreement, child support and visitation, and all other issues that will frame the divorce.
It is a legal document and must be followed per the obligations set out in the decree. If either party does not adhere to the instructions, then the other party can take legal action to ensure compliance.
What is a divorce certificate?
After a divorce has been granted in Kentucky, the state’s Office of Vital Statistics keeps records on file.
A certificate has much less information than a decree, generally only stating that a divorce took place, along with the specifics of where and when it happened.
A certificate can be ordered and a fee paid either by phone, mail, the internet or in person. It may take up to 30 days to process a request. The required fee covers the cost of the record search, and no refunds are issued if a certificate is not found.
You will need to provide:
- Full name of First Party
- Full name of Second Party
- The month, day and year of the marriage or divorce
- The county where the marriage license or divorce was issued
- Name and address where the certificate is to be mailed
- Phone number where you can be reached during the day from 8 am to – 4:30 pm Eastern time
- The number of copies being ordered
The fee is payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer to cover the cost of each certificate ordered and costs $6 for each certified copy.
You can also place an order in person at:
Office of Vital Statistics
275 E. Main St. 1E-A
Frankfort, KY 40621
For general information, call (502) 564-4212.
Changing Your Name
You will be presented either an option to restore your former name or request a court order for changing names when preparing your divorce forms.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Just having a court order does not mean your name change has taken effect. You will need to contact all of your organizations to request your records are updated.
It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follow.
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a lot of divorce resources that make big claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
These are the tools and resources we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more
Looking for more great divorce tips? Here are a few of our favorite resources: