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Kentucky Child Custody
Child Custody in Kentucky

According to Kentucky law, "[t] he court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and equal consideration shall be given to each parent and to any de facto custodian."

Joint custody is an option. Grandparents' visitation rights are recognized. The child's wishes are considered.

Kentucky's best interest test means the court evaluates any child custody case in light of what is best for the child. Judges are not bound by what the parties - the parents, grandparents, children or any other person - may wish or desire. Courts encourage divorcing or separating parents to work together in raising their children. Parents write a parenting plan detailing the terms and conditions of their divorced parenting.

In the event that divorcing parents fail to agree, the court intervenes to resolve the issues of child custody, support, and visitation rights.

Under child custody laws in Kentucky, there are three basic custody options: single parent custody, joint custody, and a de facto (see Third Party custody) custody.

In deciding child custody, the Kentucky court considers all pertinent factors including:

  • the child's wishes or preferences as to his or her custodian;
  • the child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and any other individuals who may affect the best interests of the child;
  • the child's capability to make adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • the wishes or preferences of the parents and any de facto custodian as to custody;
  • the parent(s)' intent in placing the child with a de facto custodian;
  • the mental and physical health of the parties involved;
  • the history of domestic violence or child abuse, if any; and
  • the amount of time and as to what extent in which the de facto custodian has cared for child.

In summary, the court determines custody based on the best interests of the child and with equal consideration to parents and any de facto custodian.

Types of Custody

Kentucky favors joint custody. Joint custody means both spouses make decisions regarding the child's education, medical treatments, religious upbringing and similar decisions, as equals. The court may also award sole custody, where one parent makes such decisions. However, joint or sole custody can be granted independently of physical custody. Physical custody determines where the child lives. In this routine, the court appoints one parent as the custodial parent, while the other will be granted visitation rights.

The family courts can choose among single parent custody, joint custody, and a de facto custody options based on which support the best interests of the child.

Joint Custody Preference

Kentucky law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. Joint custody is favorable for the child since this form of custody supports a continuing child-parent relationship. However, this may not always be granted if the child's welfare is at risk with one of the parents.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, will try to gain custody of a child. This is called a de facto custodian, who can be a grandparent or other individual other than the biological parents who has been the child's primary caregiver and financial supporter.

According to Kentucky law, an individual can be considered as de facto custodian (a) if the child has resided with him or her for a period of 6 months or more if the child is under 3 years of age, (b) and for a period of 1year or more if the child is 3 years of age or older, or (c) as deemed appropriate by the Department for Community Based Services.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

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