Kentucky Marital Property Laws

Married couples acquire rights to much of the property and assets, as well as debts, obtained during the marriage by both parties or only one party. Marital property doesn’t include what’s owned separately by either spouse, including property owned before marriage, gifts, inheritance, property excluded by a legal agreement (like prenups), or property obtained after legally separating. These are called “separate property.”

States have two main ways of dividing marital property, equitable distribution or community property. Kentucky is in the majority as an equitable distribution or common law state. This means marital property isn’t automatically assumed to be owned by both spouses and therefore should be divided equally in a divorce.

In Kentucky, when couples divorce the assets and debts can be divided by a separation agreement the spouses negotiate on their own, although it’s still subject to the court vetoing it or parts of it as unconscionable (extremely unfair). The court can also divide the property if the spouses can’t agree on a property division. The factors considered by the judge in marital property division are:

  • Each spouse’s contribution to acquiring marital property, including the contributions of a stay-at-home spouse
  • Each spouse’s circumstances, including the desirability of having the custodial spouse live in the family home with the kids
  • The length of marriage
  • The value of the property awarded to each spouse

The following table explains more of the marital property laws in Kentucky.

Code Sections Kentucky Revised Statutes Sections
Community Property Recognized No, Kentucky is an equitable distribution state without community property laws. However, Kentucky has enacted the Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act (UDCPRDA). This Act means if you lived in a state with community property for its marital property laws and then move to a state without community property, you won’t lose your pre-existing property rights. This is limited to only real property or personal property in Kentucky.
Dower and Curtesy Yes, Kentucky is one of the few states that still retains the old common law (based on prior cases) concepts of dower and curtesy. However, there are exceptions.

When a spouse dies intestate (without a will), the surviving spouse has a one-half to one-third interest in the deceased spouse’s real estate absolutely or only for his or her life, unless otherwise barred or relinquished. In addition, the surviving spouse has a one-half absolute interest in the deceased spouse’s personal property. Divorce or adultery end a spouse’s right to dower and curtesy. If you may either of these rights you should consult an attorney, as there are many limitations.

If you have any assets or debts and are divorcing, you need to consult with an experienced local divorce attorney to discuss your rights and options. If your spouse has passed on and you need help understanding your rights to marital property as a surviving spouse, you should consult with a knowledgeable Kentucky estate administration attorney.

Note: As state laws change regularly, it’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research.

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