Alimony in Kentucky is also referred to as maintenance, and these two terms are often used interchangeably. It is a court-ordered provision for one spouse’s financial assistance during or after a divorce.
It is awarded regardless of the requesting spouse’s gender, provided the spouse needs financial assistance. This article discusses the determination of alimony and the types available to the requesting spouse.
How To Calculate Alimony in Kentucky
There is no formula used to calculate alimony in Kentucky. While you are likely to come across Kentucky alimony calculators online, the truth is that maintenance in the state is calculated on a case-by-case basis by the judge presiding over the case.
Before calculating the amount and duration of alimony, the judge will determine whether the requesting spouse qualifies for alimony by considering the following factors:
Whether the requesting spouse has enough resources to become self-supporting after the division of marital property.
The responsibility of the requesting spouse to take care of a child in the marriage whose needs make it inappropriate for that spouse to work outside the home.
Upon the court’s determination that the requesting spouse meets these requirements, the judge will go on to determine the amount, duration, and type of maintenance to award.
– Amount of Alimony
Since the calculation of maintenance awards is based on the unique circumstances of the case, judges often consider the following factors to calculate the amount of maintenance to award:
- The financial resources of the requesting spouse, including their portion of the divided marital property and their ability to attain financial independence.
- The need and the time necessary for the requesting spouse to acquire an education or complete job training to find suitable employment.
- The standard of living is established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, physical, and mental health of the supported spouse.
- The ability of the payor spouse to remain financially independent while making maintenance payments.
While Kentucky is a no-fault divorce state, courts can consider the marital fault to determine the amount of maintenance to be awarded. For instance, if the requesting spouse committed adultery, the court might award a smaller amount than what would have been awarded.
Suppose the payor spouse cheated on their spouse during the marriage and used marital funds to finance their infidelity. In that case, the court might order a larger Kentucky spousal maintenance award to compensate the other spouse for the lost assets.
– Duration of Alimony
Like the amount, judges also have full discretion to decide the appropriate duration of alimony given the spouses’ circumstances. In addition to the factors outlined above, the duration of alimony mainly depends on the type of alimony awarded. In Kentucky, judges may order temporary, short-term, or permanent alimony.
Temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite may be ordered while the final divorce decree is pending. This alimony usually lasts the duration of the divorce process and is meant to support the lower-earning spouse during litigation.
Divorce cases in Kentucky can take up to a year or more to finalize, and temporary alimony helps the supported spouse to adjust to living off one income. If a judge orders temporary alimony, it will likely end with the finalization of the divorce process.
Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 403.160 (2018) provides that an order for temporary alimony is only valid during the divorce process and terminates with the finalization of divorce or when the judge creates a new support order.
Short-term or rehabilitative alimony may be ordered if the judge establishes that the requesting spouse can become self-supporting by getting an education or job training.
As such, this type of alimony is only available for the duration it takes the supported spouse to get a suitable job. In most cases, a judge will require the supported spouse to create a plan that indicates how long it would take to attain financial independence.
Permanent alimony, although less common, may be available to divorcing spouses who have been in a long-term marriage. While judges expect the lower-earning spouse to find employment after divorce and become self-supporting, this might not be practical for some.
Advanced age or disability often prevents a spouse from working, meaning they should be financially supported on an ongoing basis. Permanent alimony doesn’t always last forever – it ends upon the spouse’s death or remarriage of the supported spouse. Also, courts reserve the right to terminate or modify this type of alimony.
How To Pay Spousal Support Kentucky
An alimony order in Kentucky is mostly fulfilled through periodic payments to the recipient spouse. Unless otherwise agreed by the spouses, a judge will issue an income withholding order along with the support order.
An income withholding order is sent to the payor spouse’s employer. The employer is directed to deduct maintenance payments from the payor spouse’s paycheck. These payments are then sent to the State Disbursement Unit and forwarded to the recipient.
In cases where the payor spouse lacks a regular paycheck, the court may order a lump-sum alimony payment. Usually, this will come from the payor spouse’s assets and will be a one-time payment.
If the payor spouse fails to make court-ordered spousal support payments, the recipient spouse may explore various options to ensure that alimony arrears are paid. Normally, maintenance arrears can be collected through wage garnishment, mediation, or small court claims.
In cases where the payor spouse willfully refuses to pay alimony, the supported spouse has several options for enforcing the alimony court order.
If a judge didn’t issue an income withholding order, it could be used by the court to compel compliance. This order ensures that payments are automatically deducted by the employer and paid to the State Disbursement Unit and then to the recipient spouse.
A writ of execution is a court proceeding that can help the recipient spouse retrieve alimony arrears owed by the payor spouse. Through a writ of execution, an enforcing officer can seize the payor spouse’s property to pay off alimony arrears.
The recipient spouse can therefore receive a portion of the payor spouse’s property, bank account, or other assets the court may deem appropriate to offset alimony arrears.
In some cases, the court may find a spouse who fails to comply with an alimony order in contempt of court. If the non-compliance continues, that spouse could face fines and jail time.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Kentucky
Avoiding alimony payment is possible, and this can be done in several ways. Before marriage, partners can use a prenuptial agreement to set the terms of their marriage. Partners can include non-payment of maintenance as one of the terms of their prenup.
Unless the court finds the prenup’s terms unconscionable, it will likely uphold and enforce it during the divorce. That means that the higher-paying spouse may not be compelled to pay alimony to their spouse.
If a couple didn’t have a prenup before marriage, the other options for avoiding paying alimony are seeking modification or termination of alimony.
– Modification of Alimony
Changing an alimony order may not be a straightforward process, but the court may review the original order. Normally, this happens if the circumstances that supported the alimony award have changed over time.
Modification of alimony depends on the type of maintenance that was awarded. For instance, modification is impossible if the judge ordered the payor spouse to pay lump-sum alimony. This type of alimony is considered “closed” and may not be modified. Otherwise, any other type of alimony can be modified.
Courts can always evaluate the parties’ current circumstances and modify alimony accordingly unless spouses have agreed not to change alimony terms in their divorce settlement agreement. However, the court can only review an alimony award if the requesting spouse can prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original alimony order.
If you are the payor spouse and can’t pay maintenance as ordered, you must file a motion to reduce or pause alimony before you stop paying. According to Kentucky alimony laws (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 403.240 (2018), failure to pay court-ordered support may lead to a contempt-of-court charge, which could result in fines license loss, and jail time.
Although the law is unclear about what might constitute a change in circumstances, some events may necessitate a review of alimony. Such events include:
- The cohabitation of the recipient spouse with another party of the opposite sex.
- Involuntary job loss.
- Reduction in rental income or salary.
- Property loss.
- Increased earnings for the supported spouse.
Filing a Motion to Modify Maintenance includes citing the relevant change in circumstances. Also, the requesting spouse is required to include their income details, employment information, as well as their assets and debts.
The petitioner should also provide any paperwork supporting their modification request, including tax documents, pay stubs, and other relevant documents. When filing their paperwork, they must pay a fee at the County Court Clerk’s office (where they filed the divorce).
If the requesting spouse can’t pay this fee, an attorney can help them complete a Motion to Proceed without Paying Costs form. They must then serve the respondent via the Sheriff, a warning order attorney, or by certified mail.
The court then determines whether the motion warrants a hearing. If it does, the court will allow both parties to present their statements and any evidence in court. If the judge rules in favor of the Motion to Modify Maintenance, they will sign a new maintenance order.
Both parties will receive the new order at the hearing or via mail. Modification of maintenance is finalized once the judge signs this order.
– Termination of Alimony
The payor spouse can also avoid paying alimony by petitioning the court to terminate alimony. While certain events mark the end of alimony, payments will generally stop after the court-ordered duration elapses. If a judge awarded alimony for three years, payments would stop after three years from the date of the order.
Where a judge orders rehabilitative maintenance, the obligation to pay often ends when the recipient spouse attains a degree or completes the job training necessary to get employment.
Normally, alimony in Kentucky terminates automatically upon either spouse’s death or the recipient spouse’s remarriage. Temporary alimony terminates upon the finalization of the divorce.
Where spouses agree to alimony terms through a settlement agreement, they may specify when the obligation to pay maintenance will terminate. If so, alimony terminates on the agreed-upon date.
The terms of a prenup can also determine termination of alimony. If a couple specified the duration of alimony and when it would terminate, the court will likely enforce these terms, provided the prenup was valid at the time of the divorce.
– How Long Do You Have To Be Married in Kentucky To Get Alimony?
Kentucky divorce laws don’t specify how long you must be married to receive alimony. Generally, the judge will award alimony if the requesting spouse proves that they need financial support.
Although an alimony award depends on the need for support, a judge will likely order alimony when spouses are in a long-term marriage. As a rule of thumb, courts consider any marriage that lasted ten years or more as a long-term marriage.
While other types of alimony may be available to spouses in short-term marriages, permanent alimony is mostly reserved for spouses whose marriage lasted ten years or more.
– Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Kentucky?
Kentucky is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that courts do not consider marital misconduct when determining alimony. Infidelity alone isn’t reason enough for the court to deny alimony if the requesting spouse is otherwise entitled to it.
However, judges will consider whether the cheating spouse used marital assets on their romantic lover or to buy something frivolous for themselves. If a spouse indeed wasted marital assets, a judge can reduce the amount of maintenance if that spouse is the requesting spouse.
– Is Kentucky a 50-50 Divorce State?
Kentucky is an equitable distribution state. This means that the division of marital property during a divorce is done equitably and fairly. This doesn’t always mean that property will be divided 50/50.
Courts have full discretion to determine what is equitable and fair. Both spouses should disclose all their assets and debts and give information about their property to ensure an equitable distribution.
– Do You Have To Be Separated Before Divorce in Kentucky?
Regardless of the method you choose, Kentucky divorce laws require that you and your spouse be “separated” for at least 60 days before the divorce can be finalized. That means you and your spouse must live apart or abstain from sexual relations before the finalization of the divorce.
In cases where spouses wish to convert their legal separation to a divorce, the law requires the parties to be legally separated for at least one year before seeking a formal divorce.
– How Long Does a Divorce Take in Kentucky?
There is no single answer to this since every divorce case is different. Uncontested divorces can take 30-90 days to be finalized, depending on any mandatory waiting periods and the caseload at the courthouse.
Contested divorces are often drawn-out processes that could go on for a year or more before finalization. Depending on the divorce circumstances, it could take a couple of months to a year or more for the judge to enter the final divorce order.
– Who Pays for a Divorce in Kentucky?
Normally, each spouse is expected to meet their own cost of hiring an attorney. However, the judge can order the higher-earning spouse to pay both parties’ fees if there is a significant income disparity.
Generally, divorce costs include filing fees, attorney fees, and other related costs. In Kentucky, filing fees will range from $115-$250, depending on the county. Additionally, you can expect to pay about $5,000-$8000 or more in attorney fees and other divorce costs.
Alimony in Kentucky is meant to close the gap in the finances of the divorced or divorcing spouses. The spouses can agree upon it, or a court may order the higher-earning spouse to make payments to their spouse. In this article, we’ve discussed the various aspects of alimony in detail. Below, we highlight the key points:
- Courts in Kentucky award alimony if the requesting spouse lacks the resources to become self-sufficient or if it is their responsibility to take care of a child with a special need.
- Judges have full discretion to decide the type, amount, and duration of alimony but are guided by several factors the law provides.
- The determinations on alimony differ from one case to another, and it may not be possible to state the average spousal support in Kentucky.
- A material change in circumstances can warrant termination or modification of alimony.
Changing an alimony order can be difficult, but a significant change in circumstances could be a valid reason to petition the court to review the alimony order. Usually, the court will modify alimony if the terms of the initial order make payment of maintenance unconscionable.
However, the requesting spouse has to show that continued payments will leave them in a worse financial situation.
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