Divorce in Kentucky: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated February 22, 2024by Unbiased team

From filing and records to costs and more, this guide will take you through a divorce in Kentucky, and help you make informed decisions.


  • There are two types of divorce in Kentucky – contested and uncontested.   

  • The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.

  • Kentucky has a mandatory separation period of 60 days before a judge can grant a final divorce.

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the different types of divorce in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, there are two main types of divorce:

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  1. Uncontested Divorce:

    • An uncontested divorce (also known as a simple divorce) occurs when both spouses agree on all issues required to end their marriage.

    • In an uncontested divorce, couples reach a consensus on matters such as property division, spousal maintenance, child custody, and child support without involving an outside third party.

    • The process is usually faster, smoother, and less adversarial.

    • Couples can submit a written settlement agreement to the court outlining the agreed-upon terms.

  2. Contested Divorce:

    • A contested divorce arises when spouses cannot agree on one or more critical issues related to their divorce.

    • These disagreements may involve property division, alimony, child custody, or other matters.

    • In a contested divorce, the court intervenes to determine the final arrangements.

    • It may require legal proceedings, hearings, and potentially a trial.

    • Contested divorces tend to be more complex, contentious, and costly.

Kentucky is a “no-fault” divorce, meaning there does not have to be an assigned fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Kentucky only requires that at least one spouse believes there is an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.

How much does a divorce cost in Kentucky?

The cost of a divorce in Kentucky can vary depending on several factors, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, whether you have children or property to divide, and whether you hire an attorney or represent yourself. However, some common expenses that you may encounter are:

  • Filing fee: This is the fee that you pay to the court when you file your divorce petition. The filing fee in Kentucky is $148, but it may be waived if you qualify for a fee waiver based on your income and expenses.

  • Service fee: This is the fee that you pay to have your spouse served with the divorce papers. The service fee can range from $20 to $100, depending on how you choose to serve your spouse (e.g., by sheriff, certified mail, or private process server).

  • Attorney fee: This is the fee that you pay to your attorney for representing you in the divorce. The attorney fee can vary widely depending on the complexity of your case, the experience and reputation of your attorney, and the amount of time and work involved. Some attorneys may charge a flat fee, while others may charge an hourly rate or a percentage of the assets or debts that they help you recover or pay. The average attorney fee for a divorce in Kentucky is about $10,000, but it can be much higher or lower depending on your situation.

  • Mediation fee: This is the fee that you pay to a mediator if you and your spouse agree to use mediation to resolve your divorce issues. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where a neutral third party helps you and your spouse communicate and negotiate a settlement. Mediation can save you time and money by avoiding a trial, but it is not free. The mediation fee can vary depending on the mediator’s qualifications, the number of sessions, and the issues involved. The average mediation fee for a divorce in Kentucky is about $1,500, but it can be more or less depending on your case.

  • Other fees: These are the fees that you may pay for other services or expenses related to your divorce, such as court reporters, appraisers, experts, witnesses, copies, postage, travel, etc. These fees can add up quickly, so you should keep track of them and ask for receipts.

How can I reduce the cost of my divorce in Kentucky?

The total cost of a divorce in Kentucky can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your circumstances.

However, you may be able to reduce your costs by:

  • Agreeing with your spouse: The more issues that you and your spouse can agree on, the less time and money you will spend on litigation. You may be able to file for an uncontested divorce, which is faster and cheaper than a contested divorce. You may also be able to use online or do-it-yourself divorce services, which are less expensive than hiring an attorney, but they may not be suitable for complex or contested cases.

  • Shopping around: The fees that different attorneys, mediators, and other professionals charge can vary significantly, so you should compare their rates and qualifications before hiring them. You should also ask for a written estimate of their fees and expenses and a clear explanation of their billing practices and policies.

  • Asking for help: If you cannot afford the cost of a divorce, you may be able to get financial assistance from various sources, such as legal aid organizations, pro bono programs, low-cost or sliding-scale services, or friends and family. You may also be able to ask the court to order your spouse to pay some or all of your fees and expenses, especially if there is a large disparity in your income or assets.

How do you file for divorce in Kentucky?

To file for divorce in Kentucky, you or your spouse must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a resident of Kentucky for at least 180 days before filing for divorce.

  • You must file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse live or where you last lived together as a married couple.

  • You must pay the filing fee, which is about $150, depending on the county.

The steps to file for divorce in Kentucky are as follows:

  • Prepare your divorce documents: You can use online services, such as CompleteCase.com, to prepare your divorce documents online, or you can hire a lawyer to prepare them for you. You will need to fill out forms such as the petition for dissolution of marriage, the summons, the case data information sheet, the certificate of divorce, and the decree of dissolution of marriage. You will also need to prepare a marital settlement agreement if you have an uncontested divorce or a financial disclosure statement if you have a contested divorce.

  • File your divorce documents with the court: You can file your divorce documents in person, by mail, or by e-filing, depending on the county. You will need to pay the filing fee and get a case number and a judge assignment.

  • Serve your spouse with the divorce documents: You can serve your spouse by personal service, which means having a sheriff, a constable, or a private process server deliver the documents to your spouse in person or by certified mail, which means sending the documents to your spouse by mail with a return receipt requested. You will need to file a proof of service with the court to show that your spouse received the documents.

  • Wait for your spouse’s response: Your spouse will have 20 days to respond to your divorce documents or 30 days if they live out of state. Your spouse can either file an answer, which means that they agree or disagree with your divorce petition, or a counterclaim, which means that they have their own requests for the divorce. If your spouse does not respond, you can ask the court for a default judgment, which means that the court will grant your divorce based on your petition.

  • Finalize your divorce: If you have an uncontested divorce, you can finalize your divorce by submitting your marital settlement agreement and your decree of dissolution of marriage to the court. The court will review your documents and sign the decree, which will end your marriage. You may or may not need to attend a final hearing, depending on the county and the judge. If you have a contested divorce, you will need to go through the discovery process, which means that you and your spouse will exchange financial and other information, and the trial process, which means that you and your spouse will present your arguments and evidence to the court. The court will make the final decisions on the issues of your divorce and issue a decree of dissolution of marriage, which will end your marriage.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Kentucky?

Kentucky is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will divide the marital property and debts in a way that is fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal, to both spouses.

The court will consider several factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of the marital property

  • The value of the property awarded to each spouse

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse

  • The tax consequences of the property division

  • Any other relevant factors

Marital property is any property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title or deed. This may include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, businesses, furniture, jewelry, and other assets.

Separate property is any property that a spouse owned before the marriage or that was acquired by gift, inheritance, or other non-marital source during the marriage.

Separate property is not subject to division, unless it was commingled with marital property or used for the benefit of the marriage.

How does alimony work in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, the court may award alimony if it finds that one spouse lacks sufficient property to meet his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support themselves through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances where they cannot seek employment.

The court will determine the amount and duration of alimony based on several factors, such as:

  • The financial resources of each spouse, including the marital property awarded to each spouse

  • The time necessary for the recipient spouse to acquire sufficient education, training, or employment to become self-sufficient

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The age, physical, and mental condition of each spouse

  • The ability of the payer spouse to meet their own needs while paying alimony

  • Any other relevant factors

What happens to children during a divorce in Kentucky?

The best interests of the child determine child custody and visitation, and the court may consider various factors, such as:

  • The wishes of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity

  • The wishes of the parents

  • The relationship of the child with the parents, siblings, and other significant persons

  • The adjustment of the child to their home, school, and community

  • The mental and physical health of all parties

  • The history of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect by either parent

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate with each other

  • Any other relevant factors

The court may award joint custody, where both parents share the decision-making authority and the physical care of the child, or sole custody, where one parent has the decision-making authority and the primary physical care of the child.

Child support is calculated based on the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.

The court will use the Kentucky child support guidelines to determine the amount of support unless it finds that the guidelines are unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.

How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Kentucky

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances.

You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.

Here are some ways you can protect your money when going through a divorce:

  • Organize your finances: Before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.

  • Consider mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.

  • Think about Social Security: If you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.

  • Seek professional help: Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.


Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.