An unusual ruling in a Kentucky divorce case surprised a couple because the judge decided they should try to work it out instead of granting their divorce. The judge ordered the couple to participate in reconciliation counseling before she would grant a divorce.
Kentucky statute KRS 403.170 is the basis of this unusual ruling.
When can a judge deny a divorce?
Kentucky is a no-fault divorce state, meaning neither spouse needs to have done something wrong to justify a divorce. One or both parties must state under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The couple is then required to live separately for 60 days. If neither party is denying that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge usually will hold a hearing and grant the divorce after the 60 day separation period.
However, if one of the spouses denies under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court considers the relevant factors that lead the other spouse to seek divorce and either make a finding of whether the marriage is reconcilable or continues the matter for 30 to 60 days.
Can a judge order a couple to seek counseling?
When one spouse is denying that the marriage is irreconcilable, a judge may recommend the two parties seek counseling or order a conciliation conference. During the conference, a court-appointed therapist assists the parties with a discussion of their concerns aimed at giving the spouses a final chance to work things out.
Kentucky law compels the court to attempt a reconciliation between divorcing spouses. However, it is unusual for judges to deny a divorce if one party still wants it after counseling.