When you file for divorce, the court requires you to identify a legal reason (grounds) to terminate your marriage. This means that you will need to state a specific reason for your request in your divorce paperwork.
Some states continue to allow spouses to pursue a fault divorce, which means you can claim that your spouse's marital misconduct caused the marriage's demise. Grounds for fault divorce vary by state, but the most common include adultery, drug addiction, and abandonment.
All states allow spouses to file for some form of no-fault divorce, which is usually based on a separation for a specific amount of time and/or irreconcilable differences. Put simply, the couple isn't compatible, and there's no possibility for reconciliation in the future. One of the most attractive features of a no-fault divorce is that neither spouse is to blame for the breakup.
Residents in Kentucky can only request a dissolution of marriage (divorce) by using the state's no-fault procedures. While you may want to tell the world that the breakup was your spouse's fault, a no-fault divorce saves you the emotional turmoil that comes with pointing fingers and airing your dirty laundry in public.
Before a court will grant your divorce, you'll need to demonstrate that you and your spouse have been living apart for a minimum of 60 days. Judges understand that it's not always feasible for couples to pay for more than one home, so the court permits spouses to live under one roof for the 60 days, but you must abstain from sexual cohabitation with each other.
In addition to the 60-day separation, you must also convince the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning you and your spouse no longer get along, and neither of you believes there's a chance for reconciliation in the future. You may wonder how you can convince a stranger that your marriage is over? It's usually enough if both spouses agree that there is no chance of getting back together. However, if a court remains unconvinced, a judge may ask you to take another step—conciliation.
If one spouse denies that the marriage is over, the court may adjourn (delay) your case for 30-60 days. During this time, the court may order you to participate in conciliation. Conciliation is like therapy, except the couple meets with a neutral third-party, together, to discuss whether there's any possibility for reconciliation. The conciliator will encourage both parties to speak openly about the relationship, which may help the couple work through the differences that lead to divorce.
After the adjournment, the court will hold another hearing to decide if your marriage meets the requirements for divorce. Although the court can order a couple to attend the conciliation, a judge can't require either party to dismiss the divorce against their wishes. In most cases, unless you both agree that your marriage is on the mend, a judge will approve the divorce.
Even if one spouse disagrees with the divorce, the worst-case scenario is a delay in the proceedings. Neither spouse can't prevent the other from obtaining a divorce.
As an alternative to divorce, Kentucky courts allow couples to pursue a legal separation. Legal separation is like divorce in that the judge will decide issues like division of marital property and debt, child custody, child support, and spousal support, but in the end, the couple remains married. The process for legal separation is the same as divorce. The couple must prove that their marriage is irretrievably broken.
If you request a legal separation, the court will grant it unless your spouse objects. If either of you disagrees with the separation, a judge will follow the same procedures as a disputed divorce, which may lead to conciliation and adjournment. The goal during this period is to determine whether the couple can make the marriage work. Typically, when one spouse continues to pursue the separation, it's enough to convince the judge that reconciliation isn't possible.
For example, in one Kentucky case, a wife filed for legal separation, but the husband requested a divorce. The court listened to testimony from both spouses, and although the wife explained that her only reason for pursuing the separation was for financial gain (not because she thought she could save the marriage), the court granted her request. The husband disagreed and appealed the decision. The appeals court agreed with the husband that the marriage was beyond repair and instead, approved the divorce.
If both spouses agree to a legal separation, the court will grant it. This means that the couple can live apart, but remain married. This divorce alternative may seem unorthodox, but it may be the only option for some couples. For instance, if a couple relies on each other for financial support or health insurance, or practices a religion that forbids divorce, a legal separation may be the best option.
Before you can file for divorce or legal separation, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of 180 days prior to filing. If you can't prove your residency with a driver's license, voter registration card, or electric bill, you will have to wait to file for divorce until you meet this requirement.