Once you are 18, you are “emancipated”, a fancy legal term to mean you are considered as an adult for legal purposes.  Your parents no longer have an obligation to support you and you have all of the rights of a legal adult. 


You may obtain a marriage license and get married at 18.  You apply for a marriage license at any County Clerk’s office, where you get your car registration. 

Once married, you will have certain legal benefits and responsibilities as a married person.  The government recognizes you as married and you may, but are not required to, change your legal name.  Your legal responsibilities also include an obligation to support each other and the children of the marriage.  The property you and your spouse get during the marriage may become marital property. The marriage will also create certain legal rights in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse.


Each state has different laws which govern divorce.  Kentucky is a “No Fault” state, meaning that the grounds for divorce is simply no longer getting along or what is called the “irretrievable” breakdown of marriage. Neither party has to prove there was fault during the marriage to obtain a divorce. 

You file for divorce through court and after an agreement, or alternative dispute resolution, a divorce will allocate the marital property between the parties, restore each party to his or her non-marital property, determine custody, timesharing, and financial support. Once you are divorced, you are restored to the status of a single person.

Custody and child support

Parents are responsible for the custody, care and support of their children. Parents must pay child support for their children, whether or not they live together.  Each parent has custody and timesharing rights if the parents do not reside with each other. However, if parents do not properly care for their children, the state may remove the children from the parents’ care, regardless if the parties live together or apart.


If you are the parent of a child out of wedlock, you still have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent.  Either the mother or the father of a child may establish Paternity in District Court in the County where the child lives.  If a child receives public assistance, the state may file a paternity action to obtain support for the child from the parent(s).

If you are a male, you have the right to register with the Putative Father Registry.  A putative father is a male who may be a child’s father but whom is not married to the child’s mother, or whom paternity has not been established.  If you believe you may be the father of a child, including an unborn child, you may register with the Putative Father Registry through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  The purpose of the Registry is to determine the name and address of a father whose name and address have not been disclosed by the mother of a child who is being placed for adoption so that the father may be made aware of the adoption proceedings.

Violence and Abuse

Every adult in Kentucky is under a duty to report child abuse to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Every person in the Commonwealth, regardless of age or immigration status, may obtain a Court Order of Protection if you are the victim of domestic violence.  Domestic violence is defined as physical injury, serious physical injury, stalking, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault by a family member.  A “family member” includes a spouse, former spouse, parent, grandparent, grandchild, child, stepchild or any other person living in the same household, or by dating partner. A dating partner or ex-dating partner may be included in this definition, even if you never lived together.  If you are the victim of domestic violence by a family member, you may petition the court for an Emergency Protective Order. Every county has a place where you may file for this protection 24 hours a day. A parent may file for protection on behalf of his or her child. 

If a Judge grants your Petition for an Emergency Protective Order, you, the “Petitioner” will be issued an Order of Protection restraining the person who caused the abuse, called the “Respondent”, from having any contact with you or harming you (among other things) until you have a hearing before a Judge.  The Respondent will be served with the Order of Protection. The Petitioner is to be notified after the Respondent is served with the Order of Protection. The Court will schedule a hearing within 14 days of your Emergency Protective Order being issued to determine if a Domestic Violence Order should be issued.   Both the Petitioner and the Respondent are to be present at the hearing. After the hearing, the Court may issue a Domestic Violence Order restraining the Respondent from certain acts against the Petitioner. The Court may also award certain other relief, such as custody and child support. This Order may be in place for up to three years and may be extended upon a motion filed by the Petitioner.

If you are served with an Emergency Protective Order, or a Domestic Violence Order, you must follow the terms set forth in the Order.  That Order could call for no contact whatsoever with the Petitioner. If that is the case, you may not have any contact with the Petitioner, either directly or through third parties.  You may not send gifts or contact the Petitioner through social media. You could be arrested if you violate the terms of an Emergency Protective Order or a Domestic Violence Order.  You may not possess a firearm if you have a Domestic Violence Order against you.

Wills, Advance Directives, Power of Attorney

A testamentary will is used to maximize the likelihood that your wishes will be carried out after your death. While none of us like thinking about dying, if you do not have a will the state will direct who receives your property whether that follows your wishes or not

An “advance directive” is a legal document that goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This could be the result of disease or severe injury—no matter how old you are.  Advance directives allows you to express your values and desires related to medical care and end-of-life care. You might think of it as a living document—one that you can adjust as your situation changes because of new information or a change in your health. A power of attorney gives one or more persons the power to act on your behalf as your agent.  This includes granting that person the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. The power may give either limited or permanent authority to act on your behalf. The power may take effect immediately, or only upon the occurrence of a future event, usually a determination that you are unable to act for yourself due to mental or physical disability. You may need a Power of Attorney for your parents to do things for you, like registering your car without you present.