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Navigating the Uncertainty of Divorce


Written By: Justin Whittaker

Divorce can be a stressful and uncertain time.  This blog is intended to help give you an idea of what to expect if you or your spouse is contemplating a divorce.  I hope this blog will help you navigate the critical process that will directly impact your property rights, time spent with your children, and business interests. 

In order to be granted a divorce in Kentucky, certain requirements must first be met:

  1. At least one spouse must reside in the Commonwealth for 180 days prior to the date of filing the divorce petition. “Residency” is usually determined by whether a person intends to make Kentucky his or her home. “Residency” includes being stationed in Kentucky while a member of our armed forces.
  1. The couple must live apart for 60 days. Living apart means that the husband and wife live under separate roofs; and that they refrain from any sexual contact of any kind during their legal separation.
  1. The marriage must be “irretrievably broken.” This means that there is no chance for the husband and wife to carry on with the marriage. If both spouses state under oath the marriage is irretrievably broken, or one states it and the other does not deny it, the Court will most likely grant the divorce after a hearing. If the Court finds that there is a chance for survival of the marriage, it may order the couple to attend a conciliation conference prior to granting the divorce.

After divorce proceedings are started, several matters involving property distribution, spousal support, and child custody may need to be resolved before the final hearing.  Sometimes, the couple can work these questions out for themselves.  If that’s the case, they may submit a settlement or separation agreement to the court for its approval.  In these cases, the courts typically defer to the agreement of the parties. 

Often, the parties cannot agree on one or more issues of property or parenting.  If this is the case, financial disclosures may be required.  In Kentucky, property is divided “equitably.”  This does not necessarily mean “equally.”  Courts will divide property based on what is fair under the circumstances, and consider a number of factors affecting the couple.  Depending on the circumstances, the court may order one of the spouses to pay support to the other on a short or long term basis.  If minor children are involved, the court will make a custody determination, based on what it determines to be the best interest of the children.  The court will consider all of the circumstances when it determines the best interest of the children.  The court will also award child support to one spouse or the other in virtually every circumstance involving minor children. 

Finally, the couple will appear at a final hearing to testify about all of the above.  If the court is satisfied that all of the requirements for dissolution of marriage are met, it will enter certain findings of fact and conclusions of law to that effect.  The court will then enter a decree dissolving the marriage.  In Kentucky, the parties are not divorced until a judge signs the dissolution decree, and the decree is certified by the clerk of the court.  The couple will then be restored to all of the rights of a non-married person.  The wife may be restored to her maiden name if she chooses. 

Justin Whittaker is a family law attorney with Hemmer DeFrank Wessels.  He helps individuals navigate the stresses of divorce in Northern Kentucky courts, with an emphasis on solving disputes as amicably and efficiently as possible.  Justin strives to minimize the disruption of divorce on his clients’ lives, their children’s lives, and on the operation of their businesses.  For a consultation please call or email Justin at 859-344-1188 / [email protected].


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