Adultery in Kentucky: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Learn how adultery will affect the judge’s decisions about your Kentucky divorce case, including alimony, child custody, and child support.

By , Attorney · Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School

If you're getting a divorce in Kentucky, and you or your spouse was unfaithful during your marriage, you might be wondering how cheating affects alimony. This article provides an overview of Kentucky's alimony laws and how one spouse's adultery can impact a potential alimony award.

Overview of Kentucky Alimony Laws

Alimony, also called "maintenance" in Kentucky, is money paid by one spouse (the "paying spouse") to the other spouse (the "supported spouse") as part of a divorce order.

In Kentucky, the purpose of alimony is to prevent inequalities and help both spouses live at or near the same standard of living after the divorce. Alimony isn't awarded in every case. A judge will award alimony only when both the following statements are true:

  • the supported spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property awarded in the divorce, to reasonably provide for the spouse's individual needs, and
  • the supported spouse is unable to become self-supporting through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child making it impossible for the spouse to obtain employment outside the home.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 403.200 (2021).)

Under Kentucky's divorce laws, a court will typically award alimony when one spouse gave up a career to support the other spouse's professional school education. Also, a disabled spouse who is unable to become self-supporting following a divorce might be entitled to alimony. To learn more about how alimony is determined and calculated in Kentucky, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Kentucky.

Is Kentucky a No-Fault Divorce State?

Kentucky is a no-fault divorce state. This means that it doesn't matter which spouse is responsible for the end of the marriage—Kentucky divorce laws recognize only no-fault divorce grounds. The spouse filing for divorce needs to claim only that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" and state that the couple has lived apart for 60 days.

Some states allow divorcing spouse to claim fault "grounds" for their divorce, but not Kentucky. "Fault" is the same thing as marital misconduct, or wrongdoing committed by a guilty spouse against an innocent spouse. It can include things like adultery, abandonment, abuse, fraud, felony conviction, or chemical dependency. Because Kentucky is a no-fault divorce state, a Kentucky judge won't recognize fault-based grounds for divorce. Therefore, the judge will not consider whether adultery has occurred in your marriage when deciding whether to grant the divorce.

Kentucky Adultery Laws

Adultery has only a limited impact on alimony decisions in Kentucky, if at all. According to a landmark Kentucky case, Chapman v. Chapman, 498 S.W.2d 134 (Ky. 1973), a judge can consider adultery only when deciding how much alimony to award. The judge can't, however, prevent a guilty spouse from receiving alimony just because that spouse committed adultery. Rather, the only effect of fault (like adultery) on alimony in the Kentucky courts is on the amount awarded.

When deciding how much alimony to award and the duration of the award, Kentucky judges consider all relevant factors, including:

  • the supported spouse's financial resources (including marital property received in the divorce and the individual's ability to meet financial needs independently, as well as the extent to which a child support order contains money for the supported spouse as custodian)
  • the time necessary for the supported spouse to acquire sufficient education or training necessary to find appropriate employment
  • the couple's standard of living during the marriage
  • the length of the marriage
  • the supported spouse's age, and physical and mental health, and
  • the ability of the paying spouse to stay self-sufficient while also paying alimony.

Does Adultery Affect Child Support or Custody Decisions in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, one spouse's adultery probably won't affect the child custody or child support decision. Custody decisions are based on a child's best interests—not a parent's fidelity. However, if the spouse had an affair with a convicted child abuser, there might be reasons to limit custody or visitation with that parent for the child's safety. In most cases, though, Kentucky judges will not consider a spouse's extramarital affair when making a child custody decision.

Additional Resources

For self-help purposes, you can look at the Kentucky Court System's family case information page and self-help court forms. You can also browse the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky site for resources and assistance from legal service providers dedicated to helping low-income Kentucky residents with legal problems.