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.
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:
(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.
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.
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:
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.
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.