Alimony in Kentucky: A Quick Look

Are you facing a divorce and wondering how alimony in Kentucky is determined?  This article will help answer your questions and manage your expectations as you make your way through the divorce process, especially when alimony is involved. Of course, every situation is different,  but this article will give you some basic knowledge on the topic.

What Is Alimony?

The definition of alimony is a spouse’s court-ordered provision for his or her ex-spouse after a divorce or a separation.

Alimony is sometimes called “maintenance” in Kentucky. We will use the terms “maintenance” and “alimony interchangeably for this article. Maintenance may be granted to one spouse during divorce proceedings. It is awarded despite the spouse’s gender, and it may be done so on a permanent or temporary basis.

It is dependent on the financial circumstances of each individual spouse. Therefore, you must lack assets after the marital property has been divided, or lack the ability to maintain continuous employment in a way that will allow you to be self-sufficient.

Types of Alimony in Kentucky

As you may have already guessed, some different types of alimony are available in Kentucky. One is known as “temporary maintenance,” which is awarded on a short-term basis throughout the duration of the divorce process.

The spouse making the request for this maintenance must submit a list of assets and expenses to the divorce court. The court will then determine his or her eligibility. Temporary alimony payments end immediately after the divorce is finalized.

Post-divorce alimony is different. It is sometimes known as post-dissolution maintenance. iIf the need for alimony continues after the divorce is finalized, a spouse may be eligible for permanent or rehabilitative alimony.

Permanent alimony/maintenance is quite rare, and it is only awarded if:

  • The spouses were married for a least ten years.
  • The receiving spouse earns no money or an income that is significantly less than the payor spouse’s income.
  • The receiving spouse has a medical condition that prevents him or her from working.

The type of maintenance you will most often see is rehabilitative maintenance, which is available when spouses were married for short periods of time. It is usually limited to five years, although some courts follow the rule that the duration of the alimony is half the length of the marriage.

A spouse may make a request for rehabilitative maintenance if he or she needs time to find employment that is self-sustaining (including the time needed to undergo training or fulfill educational requirements).

The Alimony Process

In the state of Kentucky, a spouse may file for maintenance during or after the divorce proceedings. The court may even grant it if the spouse is absent during the proceedings. Many factors are involved in this process, but the court’s main consideration is whether both spouses are able to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage after they are apart.

If one spouse is found to have a sustained need for support, the court may grant maintenance. The divorce court will consider the estates, incomes, and earning ability of each spouse. They will also examine any marital property that was distributed to both spouses.

The court may find that any property obtained before or outside of the marriage (such as an inheritance) is irrelevant to the case, but only if the property was not used to benefit the marriage.

The earning capacities of both parties consider their education levels, training, employment status, earning potential, mental and physical health, and ages. They also take consider any children when deciding the award of maintenance payments.

The financial responsibilities of both parties (to themselves and their dependents) will also be considered. If the dependent spouse has children that are young enough or lack the mental capacity to dictate that the spouse needs to forego working, the court will factor these elements into the decision to award alimony.

The court may take many other facts into consideration that seem relevant to the case. If parties have any contracts or agreements related to alimony, they will also be evaluated. In the end, the justice presiding over the case has the final say about the decision.

Is There a Formula for Alimony in Kentucky?

While some states have a formula for calculating alimony, Kentucky is not one of them. Rather, the calculation is performed on a case-by-case basis by the Kentucky family court judge overseeing the case.

More on Factors Affecting Alimony

Kentucky has a defined list of factors that are described in statutory law. Legally, the judge must consider these factors when determining maintenance payments.

Kentucky does not consider marital fault when they are determining alimony payments. In other words, divorces that are considered “at-fault” due to cheating,  abuse, or other forms of marital misconduct do not affect the calculation of alimony payments.

In Kentucky, the standard of living is also considered when generating alimony payments. In other words, a judge will examine the lifestyle the recipient spouse enjoyed during the marriage when determining the correct alimony payment sum.

The justice will also consider the custodial status when determining alimony payments. In other words, alimony calculations are affected by whether the recipient spouse has custody of the children. Therefore, custodial spouses may receive higher amounts of alimony.

Some people ask if they are able to collect alimony if they are not married. This legal concept is dependent on the marriage being legally recognized. However, in areas that honor common-law marriages, courts have honored palimony payments (i.e., payments between unmarried individuals). However, this situation requires very special circumstances.

Can Alimony Be Changed?

Generally speaking, yes. Alimony in Kentucky can be changed, although it may not be very easy to do so. Under the laws of Kentucky, a decree for spousal support may only be altered if there is a showing of substantial and continuous changes in circumstances that have made the ongoing order unconscionable (i.e., unreasonable, unwarranted, and excessive in nature).

This standard is quite difficult to reach, but  

it can be done. There have been times when an ex’s life takes such a downturn that continuing with the current spousal order would be nearly impossible.

Here are the three main factors you can utilize to change alimony in Kentucky:

  • The supported spouse remarries or cohabits with a new partner, or either spouse dies.
  • Both spouses mutually agree to end the alimony order.
  • There is a change in the payor’s circumstances that make the alimony order unconscionable.

The petitioner (i.e., the person requesting the change) must create a Motion to Modify Maintenance. This motion cites the change in circumstances that makes the previous order unreasonable. The petitioner must include his or her  income, employment info, and assets or debts.

The petitioner is also required to submit any paperwork that supports his or her  claims, such as pay stubs, tax documents, and other documentation or supporting evidence.  He or she must also pay a fee and file the paperwork with the Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce was filed.

If spouses are unable to pay this fee, their attorneys can help them fill out a form for a Motion to Proceed without Paying Costs.  At this point, they must serve the Respondent in the following ways:

  • Send by certified mail
  • Serve via sheriff
  • Served via warning order attorney

The court will then decide whether the motion warrants a hearing. If so,  both parties will have the chance to make statements to the court and present any other evidence they have. If the court rules in favor of the motion filed, the judge will sign the new order. Both spouses will then receive the order at that hearing, or through the mail. Once this order is signed, the modification is finalized.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The duration of payments is determined by a Kentucky family court judge. The length of alimony is typically based on the length of the marriage. Here is one common standard for the duration of alimony: One year of alimony shall be paid for every three years of marriage. However, this standard is just a guideline, so it could vary from judge to judge.

Once a Kentucky divorce court has determined a spouse is eligible for alimony, it closely examines several factors as a way to set the amount and duration of the payments. These factors include:

  • Age and health of each of the spouses
  • The length of the marriage
  • The value of each spouse’s assets
  • The incomes of each of the spouses
  • Any circumstances that prevent the recipient spouse from maintaining employment  (such as being the caretaker of minor children)
  • Financial needs
  • The payor spouse’s ability to make these payments
  • The length of time the recipient spouse needs to be trained or educated as a way to  obtain self-sustaining employment

Therefore, it is possible to change the terms of  alimony, but it depends on the type of alimony that was awarded.

For instance, lump-sum alimony is considered “closed,” so it cannot be modified. In other words, if a court orders a specific maintenance amount, that amount must be paid in full. It does not matter if that payment is made in one lump sum or in incremental installments. However, any other maintenance order may be altered.

If a spouse experiences a “material change in circumstances,” a Kentucky court may raise or lower maintenance payments, as requested by either spouse. This type of change could include a loss of employment or a serious illness or injury that affects that spouses’ ability to work.

Lump-sum alimony comes to an end after the predetermined amount is paid in full. All other alimony orders are terminated after a date that is determined by the court. However, under Kentucky divorce law, maintenance can terminate early in a some circumstances, including:

  • Either spouse passing away.
  • The receiving spouse remarries or enters into a cohabiting relationship with a third party.

What If I Do Not Pay Alimony?

If you do not pay alimony, the owed debt is referred to as alimony arrears. These arrears can be collected via mediation, wage garnishment, or small claims court. If you fail to comply with a court-issued spousal maintenance order, you may receive a contempt-of-court charge.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony?

When it comes to divorce, Kentucky is a no-fault state. In other words, it does not matter who is at fault for the marriage’s failure, or why it came to an end. Regardless, one of the spouses needs to state in the dissolution paperwork that the marriage is broken beyond repair.

In other words, the marriage has broken down and has no chance of being salvaged. The court will accept these terms, and grant the divorce, provided the parties have been living apart for at least 60 days.

In some states, grounds (i.e., legal justifications) for divorce are based on fault, which  refers to marital misconduct or other wrongdoing committed by a “guilty spouse” against an “innocent spouse” (e.g., abandonment, adultery, chemical dependency, abuse, and fraud). However, adultery has a limited impact on maintenance awards in Kentucky.

The judge can only consider adultery when deciding how much money to award. However, he or she cannot prevent a guilty spouse from receiving alimony simply because that spouse was adulterous. In Kentucky courts, the only effect of fault is on the amount granted.

Final Thoughts

Now you have some of the basic questions answered regarding alimony in Kentucky to help guide you through the divorce process. As always, you should consult with your legal team for the best information about your specific case and circumstances.

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