How to get divorced in Kentucky

Tags: Online Divorce, Kentucky

Image: Patrick Jennings / iStock

By Steffan Lawson

Published Jul 27, 2022


We’ve created a comprehensive, well-researched guide to getting a divorce in Kentucky.

It relies on primary sources, such as Kentucky statutes and court rules, the writings of Kentucky Family Practice attorneys, and advice from Kentucky non-profit legal aid organizations.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

What requirements do I need to meet before filing for divorce in Kentucky?

Kentucky state divorce law says you can file for divorce if you meet three requirements.

  1. You’ve been a Kentucky resident for at least the previous 180 days (just under 6 months) (1).

    • You can show you’re a Kentucky resident with, for example, a driver’s license, voter registration, paying Kentucky taxes, paying utilities in Kentucky, or other sources of evidence that demonstrate you actually live in Kentucky.

  2. You’ve “lived apart” from your spouse for at least 60 days. This can include living in the same house as long as you haven’t had sex with your spouse during those 60 days. (2)

  3. Either you or your spouse must attest that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. Nothing you could do is going to save your marriage. (2)

If you haven’t lived in Kentucky for 180 days or haven’t lived apart from your spouse for 60 days, you will have to wait until you meet those requirements to file for divorce.

What if I’m concerned my spouse might hurt me or my children?

However, if you feel you are in danger of your spouse hurting you or your children, you can get a protective order immediately.

To do this, find the court that has jurisdiction over the county you live in (even if you recently moved there) and fill out form AOC-275.1, the Petition/Motion for Order of Protection. You can find this form on the Kentucky Court of Justice’s website. You can find the address and phone number of your court on their Family Court page, just select your county from the menu. If you have any questions, call the court clerk and they will help you through the process.

You can read more about protective orders in Kentucky on

What are the grounds for getting a divorce in Kentucky?

Kentucky is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that you don’t need a specific reason to get a divorce. You only need to attest to the court that your marriage is “irretrievably broken” (2). In other words, you and your spouse are not capable of resolving your differences and you must separate.

What if my spouse does not want a divorce?

If one spouse does not want a divorce, in Kentucky they have no way of preventing the divorce from happening. All defenses a spouse could use to prevent a divorce have been abolished by the Kentucky legislature. (3)

“Previously existing defenses to divorce and legal separation, including but not limited to condonation, connivance, collusion, recrimination, insanity, and lapse of time, are abolished.”

Section 403.150 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes

What is the divorce process and how long will it take?

Exactly how the divorce process unfolds depends on your specific circumstances and how KY divorce law relates to your situation. For example:

  • If you and your spouse can come to an agreement about all the details of the divorce it can be quick, and you can even avoid a court hearing.

  • If you can’t agree, the divorce will take longer, you will need to head to court, and you might be required to work with a mediator.

  • A contested divorce in which each spouse hires an attorney could take even longer if there are major disagreements.

  • Even if you both agree on all points, the divorce process may take more time if you own property that is complicated to divide, such as a pension.

  • And, if there are children under 18, the law states that the earliest any hearings – other than those for temporary order for child support, parenting conduct, or spousal support – will take place is 60 days after you serve your spouse. (4)

Although the specifics will vary, the divorce process in Kentucky is predictable in general.

Step 1: File for divorce

The first step is to file for divorce in the county you or your spouse lives in. Then your case will be handled by Kentucky’s Family Court.


You will need to fill out the correct forms in order to file for divorce in Kentucky. We provide a detailed description of all the required forms below (Forms for filing for divorce in Kentucky). The essential forms for starting the divorce process are:

  • AOC-105, Civil Summons

  • Your petition for divorce plus a redacted copy that omits dates of birth and social security numbers

  • AOC-FC-3, Case Data Information Sheet, plus a redacted copy without dates of birth and SSNs

  • VS-300, Vital Statistics form, printed on bonded paper with a watermark

  • AOC-238/239, Preliminary / Final Verified Disclosure Statement

  • Optionally

    • Motion to waive all court fees if you don’t enough money to pay them

    • AOC-110, affidavit for a Warning Order of Attorney to serve your spouse if you don’t know where they live and lack a good mailing address for them

Step 2: Serve your spouse

When you “serve” someone you are essentially notifying them in an official way that you have brought a civil claim against them in court.

For divorce in Kentucky, this means sending someone the (a) verified petition for divorce, and (b) the civil summons. If you and your spouse are in agreement on all points you can personally serve them.

If you are not in agreement with your spouse on some points or the divorce will be a contested divorce, it’s better to use one of these three options for how to serve them:

  1. By USPS certified mail, which will require a good mailing address and will require your spouse to sign on delivery

  2. By your local Sheriff or Police Department hand-delivering the petition and summons to your spouse

  3. By Warning Order of Attorney, which is only for when you don’t know where your spouse lives and you don’t have a good mailing address for them

You spouse will have 14 days in which to respond to the civil summons. If they do not respond, you can move for a default judgement, which may result in a quicker divorce for you.

Step 3: Possible preliminary hearing and possible temporary orders

If you make any motions for temporary orders, such as to receive spousal support or for your children to receive child support during the divorce process, then there will be a preliminary hearing for the judge to decide whether to make those orders.

Step 4: Possible mediation, negotiation, divorce education classes

It’s after any preliminary hearing that the divorce process starts to get less predictable.

From here much will depend on whether you and your spouse are in agreement (uncontested divorce), whether you’ve hired attorneys, whether you decide to go through divorce mediation, whether you have kids, and so on.

Still, a few things to keep in mind are:

  • If you have children, the court may require you to attend a Families in Transition class, which are offered locally on a regular basis and help kids and parents figure out how to better work through the challenges that divorce poses.

  • If you have children, the judge may need to speak with them in order inform their decision about legal and physical custody. Or, the judge may need to assign a representative for the children to gather information about their needs to inform what would be in their best interests.

  • The court may require you and your spouse to try mediation in order to come to agreement about outstanding items.

  • You may need to pay child or spousal support for the first time

  • Your behavior can affect the outcome of the divorce. This article, though targeted primarily at fathers, highlights relevant points for anyone who has kids and is getting divorced should avoid doing.

Step 5: Finalizing your divorce

If you and your spouse are in agreement on all points, you may be able to skip a final hearing altogether by submitting a motion for a final disposition as soon as you are ready.

Otherwise, if you can agree on some issues but not others, you should submit those that you can agree upon to the court prior to a final hearing.

The final hearing will be when the judge decides all issues of the case and issues your official divorce. At this point, if you changed your name when getting married you can change back to your maiden name if you want.

How much does a Kentucky divorce cost?

Getting an uncontested divorce in Kentucky is going to be cheaper than a contested divorce where you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on all points.

Still, how much could it cost?

There are many estimates online for how much a Kentucky divorce will cost, but citations backing up those numbers are rare.

A few examples are:

  • The Army estimates that it costs $350-600 all-in to get divorced in Kentucky (5)

  • A commonly cited filing fee – the cost for filing your forms – is $113, but no citation exists for that anywhere.

  • This site is outdated and also lacks any sources of its numbers, but has a useful list of different types of costs you can expect. It also mentions a $113 filing fee.

  • The Kenton Court Clerk website is one of the few to publish their various fees online.

The most trustworthy source of information on costs we could find is the Kentucky Court Rules, CR 3.02 Circuit fees and costs. There, the filing fee is listed at $150. You may also need to pay a $20 “court technology” fee and a $20 “access to justice” fee, but you should check with your county court clerk. (6)

Filing and other court fees can differ from county to county so it’s important to call your court clerk to get the most up-to-date information if you’re curious about costs.

There are other fees you may need to plan for:

  • Serving your spouse

    • For example, the Kenton Court fees are $12.51 for certified mail, $60 for the Sherriff to serve your spouse, and $75 for a Warning Order of Attorney

  • If you’ll need an external notary

    • Some forms will need to be notarized. If your court clerk does not notarize court forms or you would prefer not to wait in line, then you may want to pay a local notary, who will charge for each signature.

  • If you’ll need a property appraisal to determine how much your real estate is worth

  • Families in Transition class

  • Miscellaneous copies, printing costs and office supplies

    • For example, the VS-300 form must be printed on bonded paper with a watermark

  • Other court fees

    • If the court appoints a domestic relations commissioner, you may have to pay as little as $15 or as much as $600 (7)

  • Any counseling or therapy not covered by insurance

In Sum

It’s difficult to anticipate the total cost of a Kentucky divorce, but we think the Army’s estimate is a reasonable one.

Assuming no property appraisal and $25 worth of copies and miscellaneous costs, you’re looking at between $175-215 with no children and $225-265 with children, depending on your exact court fees. That does not include the cost of any counseling or therapy you may want.

What if I can’t afford the court fees and other expenses?

If you can’t afford to file for divorce in Kentucky, there is help.

Using form AOC-026, Motion for Waiver of Costs and Fees and to Proceed In Forma Pauperis; Affidavit; Financial Statement; and Order, you can request that the court waives all court fees. You can find this form by searching on the Kentucky Court of Justice Legal Forms page.

Even more useful than trying to get your court fees waived yourself is reaching out to a local legal aid organization.

Kentucky has four designated legal aid organizations, each serving a different part of the state. You can refer to the map below to find which organization serves your region, or you can look up your county on the Kentucky Bar Association’s website.

Kentucky has four non-profit legal aid organizations, each one responsible for one region of the state.

Kentucky has four non-profit legal aid organizations, each one responsible for one region of the state.

  1. Region 1: Kentucky Legal Aid

    • 270-782-1924

    • Serves: Allen, Ballard, Barren, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Edmonson, Fulton, Graves, Green, Hancock, Hart, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, Metcalfe, McCracken, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Taylor, Todd, Trigg, Union, Warren, Webster 

  2. Region 2: Legal Aid Society

    • 502-584-1254

    • Serves: Breckinridge, Bullitt, Grayson, Hardin, Henry, Jefferson, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble, Washington

  3. Region 3: Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

    • 859-431-8200

    • Serves: Anderson, Bath, Boone, Bourbon, Boyd, Boyle, Bracken, Campbell, Carrol, Carter, Elliot, Fayette, Fleming, Franklin, Gallatin, Grant, Greenup, Harrison, Jessamine, Kenton, Lewis, Mason, Menifee, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owen, Pendleton, Robertson, Rowan, Scott, Woodford

  4. Region 4: AppalReD Legal Aid

    • 866-277-5733

    • Serves: Adair, Bell, Breathitt, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Floyd, Garrard, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Monroe, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe

What forms do I need for a Kentucky divorce?

Getting a divorce in any state requires a lot of form filling and Kentucky is no different. Your best resource for questions about the forms is your court clerk.

They can’t offer any legal advice or help you with your case, but they can and will offer clarification and guidance about what forms you need, what different questions on those forms are asking for, and other procedural questions. They will not be able to interpret Kentucky divorce law as it relates to your divorce.

Filling in your forms

You have a few options for how to fill in your forms.

  • Completely do it yourself, using resources like this website to help you

    • If you have children, KY Justice has compiled self-help packets of Kentucky divorce forms for (a) couples without children and (b) couples with children. While they are mostly correct, they have not been updated since 2014 and if you decide to use these packets you should confirm with your court clerk that your forms are appropriate for your situation.

  • Get the help of a trusted friend who has gone through the divorce process recently and can offer guidance

  • Seek the help of a local legal aid organization

  • Get help from other local service organizations

  • Fill in the forms using an online service, which, will help you complete them correctly in less time and guide you through the divorce process. We recommend 3SRecord #43797385tepDivorce or, and have reviewed other service providers as well.

  • Hire an attorney

Which specific forms do I need?

Most of these forms are available online, some will need to be requested from your Family Court clerk, or Civil Court clerk if there is no family court in your jurisdiction.

Note that several of the “motions” below reference how they are described in the KY Justice self-help divorce packets referenced above. Other attorneys or forms may use slightly different terms.

We also have a guide dedicated to advice on finding divorce forms.

To start your divorce

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

    • You can request this from your county Family Court Clerk

    • Fill out one copy completely and on the second copy omit dates of birth and social security numbers (that’s the redacted copy)

  • VS-300, Certificate of Divorce or Annulment data entry sheet (Instructions)

  • AOC-FC-3, Case Data Information Sheet

    • One copy will all the information, one copy with DOB and SSN redacted

  • AOC-105, Civil Summons

  • AOC-238 / AOC-239, Preliminary / Final Verified Disclosure Statements

    • These forms are how you disclose the property you own, your income and other important information required by the judge for dividing assets

    • If you and your spouse earn under $100k per year and own less than $100k in assets, you can use the simplified disclosure forms AOC-238.1 / AOC-239.1

  • Optional

    • Any motions for temporary orders for Child Support, Spousal Support, or Parenting Conduct

    • AOC-026, Motion for Waiver of Costs and Fees and to Proceed In Forma Pauperis; Affidavit; Financial Statement; and Order

      • This is for people who can’t afford to pay the court fees

    • AOC-110, Appointment of Warning Order Attorney

      • This is for people who don’t know where their spouse lives and do not have a good mailing address for them. The court will appoint an attorney to try to serve your spouse and they will have 50 days in which to report back to the court, after which the divorce can proceed.

      • This would require an affidavit stating that you, in fact, do not know how to reach or find your spouse

If you and your spouse are in complete agreement

You will need to file these additional forms, which can happen after you initiate the divorce process:

  • Entry of Appearance and Waiver

  • Marital Settlement Agreement

  • AOC-283.3 / 293.3, Acknowledgement of Preliminary / Final Verified Disclosure Settlement

  • Deposition of Petitioner

  • Finding of Fact and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage

    • You can fill this out to speed the process but the judge must approve and sign it

  • Motion for Final Decree

If you and your spouse disagree and your spouse DOES NOT respond to your summons after having been served

You may seek a default judgement. You will need to file these additional forms:

  • Deposition of Petitioner

  • Motion for Default Judgement and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage

  • Decree of Dissolution of Marriage

    • You can fill this out to speed the process but the judge must approve and sign it

If you and your spouse disagree and your spouse DOES respond to your summons after having been served

You will need a hearing in court. You will need to file a Notice-Motion-Order to Schedule Final Hearing.

How is property divided between spouses?

When it comes to splitting property during divorce, Kentucky is an “equitable distribution” state. This does not mean that property will be divided 50/50. Instead, marital property will be divided in “just proportions”. Further, “marital misconduct” (e.g. cheating on your spouse) will not factor into a judge’s decision how to split your shared property. (8)

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement about how to divide the property you own, then that will streamline your divorce process and a judge will merely need to approve your agreement. If it’s an unfair division, then the judge may not approve it.

Some property will need to be valued by an outside expert, such as real estate, especially in a market where there are few recent sales of similar properties.

What is “marital property”?

Some property may belong to you, some to your spouse, and the rest is considered “marital property”. With a few exceptions, marital property is anything acquired by either spouse after getting married.

For example, a car bought since you were married and that is registered in your spouse’s name is marital property – not theirs. Property acquired before the divorce is finalized is usually considered marital property, which is different than how most states categorize such property.

Property that’s excluded from the definition of marital property includes:

  • Property acquired prior to marriage, any increase in its value (unless that was due to work done during marriage), and any property acquired since marriage in exchange for property owned from before.

    • For example, if you owned a watch before getting married, it has since increased in value, and you then sell it – that money would not be considered marital property.

  • Anything given to or inherited by one spouse during the marriage and any income from that property (unless that income was due to significant work while you were married).

    • For example, if you inherited a cottage owned by your aunt, who rented it out during the summer, the cottage and subsequent rental income would be your property, not marital property.

  • Any property acquired before the divorce is finalized but after a decree of legal separation has been issued

Who gets what?

The law states that the court may take into account certain factors when dividing marital property. It does not consider marital misconduct, who filed for divorce, the character of either spouse, or other factors not listed here. (8)

  • Contributions of each spouse, including as a homemaker

  • Value of the property set aside to each spouse

  • Duration of the marriage

  • Economic circumstances of each spouse when the property is divided.

    • If there are children, this may influence whether the court decides to award the family home or the right to live in the family home for a period of time to the spouse having custody of the children.

How are retirement benefits divided during divorce?

Retirement benefits can be more complicated than other benefits, in particular pension funds. The court may require an expert to value a pension and it’s often in your best interest to seek an attorney’s assistance on how to divide a pension.

Some retirement benefits may not be counted as marital property. If one spouse has retirement benefits excluded, the other spouse is allowed to exclude the same amount of their retirement benefits.

Do I have to disclose all the assets I own?

In Kentucky, you must fill out a form that accounts for all property assets, AOC-238/239. Each spouse must fill this out and also file an acknowledgement of the other’s disclosure (AOC-238.3/239.3).

How will debts be divided?

Debts will be divided in a similar manner as property.

How does child custody work in a Kentucky divorce?

In Kentucky, figuring out how legal and physical custody of children under 18 should be assigned is according to what would be in the best interest of the children. The law presumes that joint custody and equal parenting time is in their best interest. The court may choose a different arrangement if the evidence supports deviating from this default. (9)

What factors does the court consider when determining custody?

The court is allowed to consider a wide range of factors when determining how custody will be split among parents (KRS 403.270). Paraphrased, those factors are:

  • What the parents’ preferences are

  • What the child wants, taking into account any undue influence by one parent or the other

  • The relationship the child has to their parents, siblings or others who play a meaningful role in their life

  • The parents’ motivations

  • The child’s adjustment and continuing proximity to his or her home, school, and community

  • The mental and physical health of parents and child

  • Whether there’s a history of domestic violence

  • The extent to which the child has been cared for by any de facto custodian (e.g. a grandparent stepping in when parents were unable to care for the child)

  • The intent of the parent or parents when placing the child with a de facto custodian and the circumstances under which the child was placed or allowed to remain in the custody of a de facto custodian

  • The likelihood a party will allow the child frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with the other parent or de facto custodian

Physical custody is when the children live with you and you are responsible for making everyday decisions, such as what they have to dinner, what toys they are allowed to have, etc.

Legal custody is the right to decide on things that affect your children’s long-term wellbeing. For example, regular medical care, education, religion, etc. (10)

What are the possible outcomes of a custody decision?

There are a variety of combinations of physical and legal custody. Parents might have joint legal and physical custody of children, with the physical custody dictated by a timesharing agreement. Or, one parent might have sole physical custody while legal custody is split. Or, one parent might have sole physical custody and sole legal custody. And there are yet more combinations depending on your specific circumstances.

A traditional arrangement was for joint legal custody and one parent to have sole physical custody. Today, however, it’s becoming more common to see joint legal and physical custody.

What is a timesharing agreement or parenting time schedule?

A timesharing agreement or parenting time schedule lays out when each parent will have physical custody of the children and act as their day-to-day parent. The court provides an example for reference.

The court will require parents to agree to a parenting time schedule, or otherwise the court will decide on one. If you and your spouse can agree on a parenting schedule, that is almost always better than having the court decide, since the court will tend to stick to the example guidelines in the court rules. Do not expect the court to use its imagination when creating a schedule. You’re better off making a schedule that works for you and your spouse, taking into particular preferences you and your children have.

If you can’t agree, the court will often require mediation. This may add cost to your divorce, but it’s still better than relying on the court to decide on a parenting time schedule.

If you still can’t agree, even after mediation, the court may appoint an outside expert (e.g. a social worker) to investigate and make a report to the court, which will probably substantially influence the judge’s decision about timesharing.

What if I’m not granted custody of my children and not given any parenting time?

According to Kentucky law, “A parent not granted custody of the child and not awarded shared parenting time…is entitled to reasonable visitation rights [unless this would endanger the child].” (11)

Some counties have visitation standards, and you can find out if yours does by calling your county clerk’s office.

A common default visitation schedule is every other weekend, one evening during the week, and holidays split between the parents.

What are parenting conduct orders and how do they work?

Either as Temporary Orders while the divorce is happening or as ongoing Orders after the divorce has been finalized, the court may issue Parenting Conduct Orders that affect what parents are allowed to do.

The court provides a list of example parenting conduct orders in its Family Court Rules. These are only examples, provided to help illustrate what the court might order.

You may, when filing for divorce or at another time, make a motion for the court to issue parenting conduct orders.

What is the Families in Transition course?

Kentucky will require families with children 6 to 14 years old, and many families with children under 18 years old, to attend a class called Families in Transition. Offered across the state on a regular basis, this course helps families navigate the divorce process and, in particular, helps children understand and cope with the challenges they are facing.

Bullitt County Attorney John H. Schmidt, in the context of writing about his own divorce, describes the Families in Transition course as helpful:

“I learned some things even though I am a family law attorney…My kids thought it was very helpful. My children told me that they learned that they did not cause the divorce, they could not prevent the divorce, and divorce is the result of issues between the adults. They were greatly relieved.”

Bullitt County Attorney, John H. Schmidt

The course costs between $40-75 per adult – children are free. For example, in Lexington it’s $75, Jefferson County $40, and Bullitt County $65. If your court fees have been waived (i.e. you case is in forma pauperis) the fee may be less.

If my case goes to trial, will my children have to testify as witnesses?

Testifying in court during their parents’ divorce proceedings can be traumatic for children. To quote from a 2013 paper published by law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP:

“Many people incorrectly assume that at a certain age children have an absolute right to pick the parent with whom they will live. While the child’s preference as to custodial parent is never binding on the court’s decision, Kentucky law does require that the child’s wishes be considered as part of the “best interests of the child” analysis. However, even where the child’s input is relevant, it is highly unusual for a child to be called as a witness. Generally, the wishes of a child are conveyed to the judge indirectly through a mental health professional or GAL who sensitively discusses custody matters with child, and then the professional testifies as to the child’s input. Other times…the judge meets privately and informally with the child, usually outside the presence of the parents or their attorneys.”

Divorce in Kentucky: What to expect and best practices to follow during the divorce process (10)

Am I allowed to move out of state with my children?

The court will not approve or deny a move per se. What the court cares about is whether timesharing or visitation orders will be affected and, if so, whether they need modification.

Before moving you must file a notice with the court and serve your former spouse. This notice must describe where and when you will move, and any effect the move will have on timesharing or visitation orders. (12)

If you have sole custody, and the move will affect court-ordered timesharing, then the other parent has 20 days from when they were served to file a motion contesting the change in timesharing.

If you share joint custody, you must file a motion to modify the existing timesharing order if timesharing will be affected by the move. You must do this within 20 days of filing the notice. The other parent may file a motion contesting your proposed changes.

In each case, you should try to file with the court well in advance of the 20 day limit in case you can’t work out an agreement with the other parent and need to have a hearing in court.

However, if the relationship has seen domestic violence, these rules may not apply.

What if I don’t file with the court and/or don’t serve notice to the other parent?

You risk the court punishing you and possibly changing the custody or timesharing arrangement.


Will an affair reduce my changes of being granted some form of custody?

Probably not, as long as it did not involve your kids.

I see or saw a psychiatrist. Will that affect my chances of being granted custody?

Simply seeing a psychiatrist is not grounds for losing custody of your children. Taking care of your own health so you are more capable of taking care of your kids is something you could present as evidence that you are responsible.

Can I legally change my children’s last names?

Not without petitioning the court and serving notice to their other parent.

How does child support work in Kentucky?

To request either temporary or ongoing child support, one parent will file a motion with the court. See our section on filling in forms for more detailed information. If the child has a custodian who is not a parent, that person may also file the motion.

If you need child support before your divorce is finalized you will need to file a motion for a temporary child support order. It’s possible that some county prosecutor offices will help you do this, especially if you’re unable to provide for your children.

How is child support calculated?

Kentucky law stipulates Guidelines for how much child support will be. It is a function of the total combined income of both parents (with some sources of income excluded) and how many children there are. There is a combined obligation, which is then allocated between each parent. (13)

While courts have leeway to deviate from the Guidelines, they may only do so when the outcome would be “unjust”.

If one parent has sole custody, the other parent will pay child support to them.

If both parents share joint custody and have equal parenting time, the one with the greater obligation (based on income) will pay the difference to the other parent.

If both parents share joint custody and have unequal parenting time (e.g. 60/40), then the parent with the greater obligation (based on income) will pay the difference in proportion to how much parenting time they have. (14)

What income is excluded from calculations?

Any income from means-tested public assistance programs, such as food stamps, is excluded from a parent’s gross income for purposes of calculating child support obligations.

If you are self-employed, gross income is gross revenue minus necessary business expenses. (13)

How much will I pay in child support?

How much you will pay in child support depends on your income and whether you share joint custody over your children, have sole custody, or do not have custody. For parents who share joint custody, it will also depend on parenting timesharing.

We have created a Kentucky Child Support Excel Calculator that you can download and that may help you get a rough idea of how much you might be obligated to pay in child support. This is not an official calculator and comes with no guarantees – eDivorce bears no responsibility for any consequences of any decision you make based on the information presented in the calculator.


Can I withhold child support if my spouse is not abiding by court-ordered timesharing rules?


Can I disregard timesharing rules if my spouse is behind on child support or spousal maintenance?


How long will I have to pay child support?

Until your child turns 18 or, if they are still in high school, until they graduate or turn 19.

What if I am not receiving child support payments?

If someone stops paying child support payments without good cause, they are failing to comply with a court order and may be held in contempt of court. (21)

To get the court to enforce the child support order, you need to file a motion with the court. Your county prosecutor’s office may be able to help with this. The court may opt to fine, jail or garnish wages from the non-paying parent.

Is there a minimum monthly payment?

The minimum monthly child support payment is $60. (13)

Who pays for the children’s health insurance and other costs?

The court will require health insurance for the kids and any extraordinary medical expenses will be split by the parents according to gross income (e.g. orthodontics, surgery that is not insured). (15)

Will I receive or have to pay alimony in Kentucky?

The court might require that one spouse provide “maintenance” for the other, payments that are commonly known as alimony. Either spouse can receive support.

Whether you will receive spousal support depends on whether you’re able to provide for yourself. If you lack property that can provide for your “reasonable needs” and you’re unable to support yourself through work, you may be eligible for alimony. Or, if you’re parenting a child whose condition or circumstances mean you shouldn’t work outside home, you may also be eligible.

How much will I receive or have to pay?

The amount of spousal support and how long it’s required depend on the following factors:

  • The financial resources of the person seeking support

  • How long it would take that person to train or gain the right skills to find employment

  • The standard of living during the marriage

  • How long you were married

  • The physical and emotional health of the person seeking support, as well as their age

  • The ability of the supporting spouse to meet their own needs

How do I finalize my divorce?

If you and your spouse agree on everything, then you can file a motion to finalize the divorce without a final hearing. If you have no children under 18 you can do this on the same day you file for divorce. If you have children, it’s unlikely that this motion will be accepted because the court will want to ensure the custodial arrangements are in fact in the best interest of the children.

If a final hearing is required, then that will be the last step in the divorce. The judge will then issue the divorce decree, making it official.

How do I find a lawyer for a Kentucky divorce?

If you need a lawyer for your divorce but can’t afford one, seek help from one of Kentucky’s four legal aid organizations, which we describe in more detail above.

If you want to hire an attorney, there are several legal profession organizations that will help you find an attorney. It’s best to talk to a few attorneys to understand (a) what their services will include, (b) how much it will likely cost, (c) whether you trust them and their working style works for you. includes a good primer on picking and working with a lawyer.

The Kentucky Bar Association is the professional organization for all lawyers in Kentucky. KBA provides a public directory of lawyers that you can search (the relevant area of practice is “Family Law”). They also link to independent lawyer referral services.

Additionally, there may be local or regional Bar Associations, such as the Louisville Bar Association, that have their own directories.

There are also directories of attorneys who specialize in collaborative divorce. Read more in our article on collaborative divorce in Kentucky.

Special cases

What if I or my spouse is in the military?

If you are serving in the military and have been stationed in or a resident of Kentucky for at least 180 days, then you will be able to file for divorce. The military will probably encourage you and your spouse to seek counseling and explore reconciliation. Consider discussing your situation with your unit chaplain (5). You can also seek help from your military legal assistance office, though they will not be able to represent you should your divorce head to court and you decide you need a lawyer.

If your spouse is in the military, you may face delays in the divorce process if they are stationed overseas or on a tour of duty. Specifically, the court will not enter a default judgement against your spouse because the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) prohibits default judgements where persons in the military are unable to appear before the court (16). This does not mean you cannot get divorced, just that the process may take longer and you won’t be able to seek a default judgement.

Kentucky has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which helps decide what happens in child custody cases when one parent is in the military and gets deployed. Read our guide on the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act for all the details a military parent needs to be aware of.

What if I can’t afford a divorce?

If you can’t afford the court fees for a divorce, see our section above about Kentucky’s legal aid organizations.

What if I can’t find my spouse?

If you can’t find your spouse and don’t have a good mailing address for them, you will need to request a Warning Order of Attorney (WOA) by submitting an affidavit that attests you don’t know where your spouse is and which provides your spouse’s last known address (17).

The court will assign an attorney who will have 50 days to try to serve your spouse. If, after those 50 days, your spouse cannot be found, the attorney will report that to the court and the process can continue (18). It’s essential you provide your spouse’s last known address. You may be charged a fee for the WOA (see section on fees).

Court-specific rules for divorce in Kentucky

Although specific courts cannot establish rules that contradict state law or the state Circuit Court rules, they can establish local rules that may affect the specifics of your divorce process. The Kentucky Court of Justice website links to all local rules, organized by county.


Can I get my maiden name back?

Yes, when the divorce is finalized.

Can I get an annulment instead of a divorce in Kentucky?

Only in limited circumstances, such as when the marriage was invalid in the first place. If you simply made a mistake in marrying the wrong person you won’t be able to get an annulment. Read our full guide on annulments.

Does Kentucky recognize common law marriage?

No. (19)

Will I have to pay my spouse’s attorney fees?

Possibly, but this is at the court’s discretion. (20)

Can I get a divorce if I’m pregnant?

Yes, you can get a divorce if you’re pregnant. However, the court has the option of waiting until the baby is delivered to finalize the divorce. (21)

Other resources

Besides eDivorce, there are several useful free resources you might find helpful during your divorce:

  • Your employer

    • Some companies offer Employee Assistance Programs that, among other things, may help employees going through a divorce

    • Even if your employer does not offer additional benefits, they may have helpful materials for you. For example, Walmart has a Life Events Checklist page for their employees where they offer to help with, among other things, coordinating court orders from child support agencies so your children are able to keep health insurance.

  • Local community groups

    • If there are local men’s or women’s groups, they may have members who have gone through divorce before and can offer support.

    • Churches and other religious institutions often have support groups for church members and non-members alike.

  • Kentucky Law

    • The Kentucky Revised Statutes covering divorce (KRS Chapter 403) are, for the most part, written pretty clearly, even if you’re not familiar with legal writing.

  • Your local library

    • Often, libraries will have divorce books that offer additional guidance on the divorce process or on how to deal with the emotional, financial and other changes a divorce brings.

    • If your library doesn’t have books on divorce, they will be able to loan one from another library in your state.

  • Legal Aid Network of Kentucky