Child Custody Decisions in Kentucky

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 What Does Kentucky Law Encourage in Child Custody Disputes?

Kentucky law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the “best interest” of the child.

Typically, the courts favor joint custody, although sole custody may be granted under certain circumstances.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Kentucky, parenting plans are completely voluntary. If parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will evaluate their case and assign custody.

Rule: Children Come First in Child Custody Laws

When it comes to family law issues, child custody is one of the most important decisions a court must make. State laws on child custody vary by jurisdiction, and these laws can be complex. It is important to carefully determine custody rights over a child or children since such decisions can profoundly affect the child.

Child custody law actually places the child’s interests and background ahead of the parent’s personal preferences when determining child custody rights. This is known as the “child’s best interest standard, ” the main standard for child custody cases. This means that courts will only make child custody decisions if they benefit the child.

As a result, when considering how to get custody of a child or how to become a custodial parent, a parent must prioritize the child’s best interests, as the courts will do during custody hearings.

The process of determining child custody is important, and the more the parents understand their child custody rights, the more efficient the process will be.

What are the Factors to Consider for Child Custody?

A family court will consider a wide range of factors that may affect a child’s well-being when determining child custody.

These factors must be balanced against the child’s best interest standard to ensure custody decisions do not harm or negatively affect the child.

Some common child custody factors used by courts in a divorce or legal separation context may include:

  • Each parent’s relationship and history of interactions with the child;
  • Whether one parent has been the primary caretaker of the child;
  • The child’s background and adjustment to their home, school, and neighborhood;
  • The mental and physical health of the child, as well as the parents;
  • Whether the child has any specific health, medical, or psychological/emotional needs;
  • The wishes of the parents (if both parents agree to a particular custody arrangement, the court will usually choose that arrangement);
  • The child’s wishes (if the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the courts will give strong weight to the child’s preferences);
  • The overall preferences of the child, especially if they are above a certain age.

Thus, if a child has special medical needs, the court will take this into account when determining custody. Some parents may be more familiar with their children’s special needs, so they may be granted the child’s custody rights.

What are the Factors That Courts Cannot Use to Decide on Child Custody?

There are also certain factors the courts cannot consider when determining child custody. There may also be other related laws, such as discrimination laws, that interact with child custody laws.

In determining custody, courts cannot consider the following factors:

  • Race: Courts generally cannot form a custody determination based on whether one parent is of a certain race or if they are dating a person of a certain race. Racial background is generally not used in custody decisions unless it can be shown that consideration of race would benefit the child;
  • Religion: Courts are typically not allowed to base child custody arrangements on religious issues or preferences. There may be exceptions in cases where the child is being harmed or placed in danger by specific religious practices;
  • Gender: Traditionally, family courts automatically awarded child custody (or a majority of the custody) to the mother, as it was assumed that the mother was the primary caretaker for the children. However, this has changed in recent times, and courts now focus on a broader set of factors to determine child custody and custodial parent arrangements;
  • Disability: Just because a parent has a legally-recognized disability does not automatically prevent them from obtaining child custody. Instead, courts will examine whether the disability would prevent the child from performing their parental duties if they were granted custody.

Are Courts More Likely to Award Child Custody to the Mother?

In the past, courts were more likely to automatically assign custody or a majority of custody rights to the mother. Children were assumed to be better cared for by their mothers. It was often based on societal notions and stereotypes that existed decades ago.

Courts in all jurisdictions have largely rejected these archaic notions. Each parent’s custody rights will be examined in great detail on a case-by-case basis. Courts will examine each custody case individually to determine the best arrangement for the child, again based on the child’s best interests (not necessarily preconceptions about which gender can raise the child better).

You can learn more about it here on our page about Mother’s Rights to Child Custody.

Child Custody for Fathers: How can a Father Get Full Custody of His Child?

Various questions can arise when it comes to father custody rights. A father of a child may ask questions such as:

  • Can a father take a child away from the mother?
  • What are the chances of a father getting full custody of their child?
  • How does a father get full custody of a child?
  • Can a father take his child?
  • How can a father get custody of their child or children?
  • How does a father get full custody?

It can be challenging for fathers to fight for custody of their children. Many mothers and other people in society still hold these types of ideas, even though most courts have discarded older notions that the mother is automatically the primary caregiver.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

Kentucky courts balance a series of factors when determining a child’s best interest. These factors include:

  • The child’s age and gender,
  • Who has been the child’s primary caregiver,
  • The physical and mental health of the child and parents,
  • The history of contact between the parents and the child,
  • The importance of sibling and other familial relationships,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse,
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate), and
  • The parents’ wishes.

A parent’s gender is not considered a factor. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess their best interests. Additionally, Kentucky has statewide visitation and parenting guidelines. These guidelines help structure parenting time and visitation rights.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

After the parenting plan and divorce order are signed, they are filed with the court clerk. Once the custody order has been approved, both parents are bound by it, and the court must approve any modifications.

Should I Contact a Kentucky Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, you must speak with an experienced lawyer.

A Kentucky child custody lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.


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