Radcliff Divorce Attorneys
Helping Our Hardin County Clients Manage Legal Separations
Deciding to end a marriage is never easy. Because a marriage is a legal agreement, certain steps must be taken to formally dissolve the relationship. Part of this process involves deciding what happens to the parties’ joint assets: Who gets the house or car? Who gets primary custody of the children? Will one parent support the other? Some couples manage to navigate what is called an uncontested divorce, in which they are able to mutually agree to the answers to these and other questions. The procedure for an uncontested divorce is fairly simple and typically only involves filing the necessary paperwork to make a separation official.
If a couple cannot agree to terms involving property division, custody of children, and other critical decisions, they will enter into a contested divorce. Contested divorces can become extremely abrasive and protracted and involve disputes across several categories.
Contested divorces in Kentucky will often focus on the following areas:
- Division of property
- Division of debt
- Child custody (if you have minor children together)
- Child and spousal support
Each party will often hire legal representation to represent their interests. Our Radcliff divorce lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples can represent you in all areas of a contested divorce. Our team can advocate to make sure your rights are honored during the property division process and advocate for you in child custody hearings. We understand how tumultuous a divorce can be and will do everything possible to make the process as painless as possible.
Property Division in a Kentucky Divorce
When you and your partner separate, you will need to negotiate who gets what of your belongings and other assets. This can quickly become problematic when deciding who will retain ownership of a family home, vehicle, or other sentimental or valuable pieces of property. Also remember that “property” is not limited to physical objects. It also encompasses monetary assets, including cash and many types of bank accounts.
Kentucky is a “common law” state, meaning property is by default divided evenly in a divorce. To determine what gets split, you will have to determine what is marital property and what is separate property.
Marital property refers to nearly any asset acquired during the marriage. This includes any property you acquired while married. An asset may be considered marital property even if the couple is not explicitly joint owners. For example, a house acquired in the course of the marriage is still likely to be considered marital property in Kentucky even if only one person’s name is on the mortgage agreement, particularly if both parties facilitate payments.
Separate property includes any asset obtained before the marriage. Exceptions to this rule include gifts – if someone specifically gives an item to one person in a marriage – and inheritances. If you owned a house, car, or other piece of property before you were married, that all counts as your separate property. The proceeds from the sale of separate property remain categorized as separate, even if the sale occurs while you were married. Finally, any assets explicitly named in a prenuptial agreement are classified as separate property.
Understanding the distinction between separate and marital property is important, as only marital property is subject to even division in a divorce. As a result, there are often disputes and challenges over what constitutes marital property, even if you are confident assets are protected as “separate.”
Where couples often get into trouble is the practice of “comingling,” in which previously separate property becomes marital property. Comingling can either happen intentionally or by accident. If a partner makes a transaction involving separate property, it generally becomes marital property; this can occur in situations where a spouse is given access to an individual bank account or when they make a payment on a home or car, even if the loan is not taken out in their name.
Disputes about who ultimately is entitled to what property will be settled by a judge, at which property will be divided relatively equal between the two divorced parties. The judge will also consider the contributions of each party and how the division of property might impact any minor children. Our Radcliff divorce attorneys can help represent you in these negotiations and fight to ensure your property remains yours.
Division of Debt in Kentucky
Couples will often have some level of shared debt stemming from credit cards, mortgages, vehicle loans, and medical bills. This debt will also have to be divided during the divorce process.
Debt is treated like material or monetary assets in that it is categorized as separate property or marital property. Debt accumulated during a marriage is typically considered marital property, while any debt incurred prior to the start of the marriage or after the separation is considered separate.
Keep in mind that credit card debt amassed during a marriage is generally categorized as marital property, even if the card is only authorized for use by one party. This is because a credit cards in these situations are often used to purchase goods or services that benefit both parties in a marriage.
Marital debt will be divided at the discretion of the judge handling your divorce proceeding, while separate debt remains the responsibility of the individual party. Again, conflicts over what is considered marital debt are common and will require careful negotiation. Debt also tends to not be evenly distributed, as the courts will consider a number of factors in determining who is responsible for what.
Judges in Kentucky often consider the following when deciding debt division:
- Which parent receives primary custody of minor children. Judges will often work to keep minor children’s lives from being disrupted where possible. This includes giving the parent with primary custody responsibility for a mortgage so a child can remain in their home.
- Individual incomes of the divorced parties. If one party makes significantly more income than the other, they may be asked to take more responsibility for shared debt.
- Individual existing debts of the divorced parties. A judge will try to avoid a situation where a person already deep in individual debt is saddled with even more obligations.
- The underlying cause of the debt. Debt accumulated from medical bills and cost of living expenses will be weighted differently than debt recklessly incurred from gambling or irresponsible purchases. If one party carelessly accrued a substantial amount of debt in a marriage, they will likely be expected to take responsibility for it.
The Role of Adultery in Kentucky Divorces
Some couples pursue a divorce as a result of an infidelity or some other form of marital misconduct. People in these situations may wonder how any perceived wrongdoing could impact divorce proceedings.
Kentucky approaches divorce from a “no fault” perspective, meaning it does not necessarily matter why you are seeking a divorce. In other words, no one will be directly penalized for engaging in infidelity. A divorce will be granted regardless.
Infidelity can potentially impact spousal support. If adulterous behavior is acknowledged by both parties in court, the judge may award additional spousal support to the wronged party. Conversely, if the party poised to receive spousal support engaged in adulterous behavior, a judge could award less than they might have otherwise received.
How Legal Separation Works in Kentucky
Legal separations are distinct from divorce in the state of Kentucky. A divorce is a permanent, legal dissolution of a marital relationship. A legal separation is more of a trial period – a temporary, legally recognized “break.” If you are having significant problems with your spouse and no longer wish to live with them for the immediate future – but are not certain you want a divorce – legal separation might make sense for you.
Keep in mind a legal separation is not necessary if you only want to move out and live separately from your spouse. Obtaining a legal separation can facilitate other procedures, however, including child custody determinations, spousal support, and division of property and debt. A court can grant a legal separation via petition and can last as long as one year.
Note that if one party has already filed for divorce, you cannot file for a legal separation. You also will not be able to remarry under a legal separation.
We Can Help You Through Your Divorce
We understand going through a divorce can be challenging and frustrating, especially if you are embroiled in one or more contentious disputes with your partner. Our Radcliff divorce lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples have over 100 years of legal experience and have helped many Kentucky clients navigate each step of the divorce process, including the negotiation and conflict resolution. Our team can help negotiate child custody, spousal and child support, and the specifics of property and debt division. We are empathetic to the stresses of divorce and legal separation and do whatever we can to support you.
Our law firm provides a full range of legal services to help you and your family achieve your goals. We speak your language. We are here to help you understand your legal options, what to expect and what steps we can take to protect you.
Our firm offers over the phone and video consultations for your safety and convenience. All consultations are free.
Our attorneys treat you like family. We care about helping you find the best resolution to your case.
We are accessible to our clients and are available 24/7.
Our attorneys offer honest advice and tailored solutions to your unique goals.
We are friendly and approachable lawyers who listen and understand your needs.
Our attorneys have decades of experience with successfully handling a variety of legal matters.