Becoming legally separated is simple in some states – reach an agreement with your spouse, sign it and go your separate ways. Then, there’s Kentucky. This state requires active court involvement. It also imposes a few requirements you must meet before you begin filling out the paperwork.
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Make Sure You Can File for Separation
The most critical factor in getting a legal separation in Kentucky is that both you and your spouse must be in agreement that this is what you want or, at least, your spouse won't object. If your spouse wants a divorce instead, the court is legally obligated to grant it if the judge finds that your marriage is irretrievably broken, which it presumably is if your spouse wants to end it.
Either you or your spouse must have lived in Kentucky for at least six months to file for a legal separation, and you must have lived apart for the last 60 days. Living apart is defined loosely under Kentucky law. You don’t necessarily have to live under separate roofs, provided there’s no sexual cohabitation. In other words, separate bedrooms in the same house qualify as living apart.
Fill Out the Petition
You can complete a Petition for Legal Separation and file it with the court if and when you meet Kentucky’s rules for qualifying. Purchase and download a petition form online. It’s mostly a matter of filling in the blanks – just make sure it’s not a generic petition for separation, but specifically for Kentucky. You can also stop by your county’s civil courthouse. The clerk may be able to give you a form or at least tell you where you can get one. You’ll need several other corresponding forms, and the clerk should be able to point you in the right direction to gather these as well.
Complete the petition by giving all your personal information and explaining to the court why you think you and your spouse can’t live together. You must also tell the court what you want the judge to order in your separation decree. You can ask for child custody and child support, as well as the use of certain marital property during your period of separation. You can also ask the judge to order temporary maintenance, which means pre-divorce alimony payments to help you live in the same or similar conditions as you did while you were married.
Subject to certain income limits, the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky can guide you to complete all these requests correctly. You can apply online.
File the Petition
When you’ve completed the petition and any additional required paperwork, file everything with the court in the county where either you or your spouse reside. There’s a filing fee, and you must have someone serve the filed copy, along with a summons, on your spouse so she understands that you’ve filed for legal separation. The summons tells her what she should do to respond.
Negotiate a Separation Agreement
You and your spouse reserve the right to reach a settlement regarding your marital issues on your own. Commit the agreement to writing, sign it and submit it to the court. Then either of you can simply file a motion in court asking the judge to approve your agreement and issue a decree of legal separation according to its terms.
The separation agreement should cover issues like separate spousal maintenance, child support, custody and visitation terms and the division of marital property. It can also address who is going to pay for marital bills. If the two of you can’t resolve these things amicably, you’ll have to appear in court so a judge can decide.
What Happens Next
Legal separations effectively expire in Kentucky. They’re only good for a period of one year. The state figures that at this point, you should know whether you want to divorce or reconcile. You’re free to reconcile sooner than one year, but you’re not free to remarry during this time.
If you want to obtain a legal divorce, file a motion with the court asking the judge to convert or modify the terms of your separation decree into a divorce decree after the one-year period expires.