What Are the Child Custody Laws in Kentucky?

The Best Interests of the Minor Are Most Important

Father and daughter holding hands at park
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As is the case all over the nation, Kentucky uses several factors to determine child custody. The court primarily considers the best interests of the child when making custody decisions, and the state has gone on record that it believes joint custody is in a child's best interests. A law was passed in April 2017 providing for joint custody as the preferred norm for temporary custody orders, those that remain in effect while a divorce is pending and until it and a more permanent custody order can be finalized. The hope is that these temporary custody orders will set the trend for long-term orders going forward post-divorce.

Even if you believe that you're the only parent who has the best interests of your child in mind, the courts might have a different view. Parents who want to file for child custody in Kentucky should become familiar with the state's best interest factors. 

The Best Interests of the Child

A family court in Kentucky determines custody based on best interests of the child factors that include the wishes of the parents, the child, and his relationship with each parent as well as with his siblings and extended family members. The court will consider the child's adjustment to his current home, school and community and how uprooting him might affect him, and the mental and physical health of all involved parties. The court will also take any history of domestic violence into consideration.

Visitation and Child Custody in Kentucky

A parent who is not granted custody of his child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds that visitation will endanger the child's physical, emotional, mental or moral health. The court will order a parenting plan determining the timing and frequency of the noncustodial parent's visitation.

Parents can agree to their own parenting plan, but if they can't reach an agreement, the court will most likely fall back on the standard, default visitation schedule for school age children in Kentucky: every other weekend from Friday at 6 p.m. until Sunday at 6 p.m., along with overnight visits on Thursdays or Tuesdays during each intervening weeks. The state encourages reasonable telephone contact as well

Modification of Child Custody in Kentucky

A court in Kentucky will not change a child custody order that's less than two years old unless the parent requesting the change can prove that the child's present environment may seriously endanger his physical, mental, moral or emotional well-being. The court will also intervene and change an order that's less than two years old if the custodial parent has placed the child with a de facto custodian – he's living with someone other than him or the child's other parent. 

Prior to modifying a custody order, the court will consider whether the parents agree to the modification and how well the child is integrated into the family.

Wrapping Up

For more information about child custody in Kentucky, speak with a qualified attorney in the state or refer to the Kentucky Code. Your research and consultations with a good lawyer will give you the best outcome in court. Be sure to ask your lawyer about any concerns you have. You don't want to regret glossing over any of the facts about your case later.