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In Kentucky, the default assumption is that both parents will share joint custody of the child. In the legal context, "joint custody" doesn't automatically imply a 50-50 split of time with the child. Rather, this means that if no formal custody order exists, the law assumes that parents have agreed to a situation for their children that they think is best.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the state does not favor either mothers or fathers in custody issues. So until a formal court order states otherwise, both parents are considered to have equal authority and access to the children.
When the courts do step in to decide on custody arrangements, they use the standard of "best interest of the child“ and they are required to examine each parent's willingness to ensure that the other parent has open access to their children. So if you unilaterally decide to limit the other parent's access to the child, you need to be prepared for potential consequences.
Of course, there could be factors that justify limiting the other parent's access. For instance, if one parent develops a substance abuse problem, the court is likely to take this into account. However, taking such a significant step on your own is risky.
It's always advisable to consult a family law attorney when considering making changes to your custody arrangements – whether they’ve been formalized by the court or not. This way, you can make decisions about your child’s well being confidently, without damaging your case later on.
The legal process for determining the final custody of a child in Kentucky is the same regardless of whether the parents are married or not. If the parents can't agree on a custody arrangement that serves the child's best interests, they will have to bring the matter before the court to decide.
Family courts use guidelines specified under Kentucky Revised Statute 403.270 to make custody decisions. In addition to this statute, the judge has the flexibility to include any other factors he or she deems relevant, even if they aren't explicitly listed in the law.
Some of the key factors that a judge must consider when determining these matters will include, but are not limited to:
In addition to all of this, the physical and mental health of each parent are major factors when it comes to determining child custody. If a parent isn't physically fit or has mental health issues that could affect their ability to care for a child, the court will see this as a major concern. What's more, a parent who has violent tendencies or problems with substance abuse, be it alcohol or drugs, can find themselves with limited access to the child.
Similarly, a history of domestic violence is a red flag for the court. Even though Kentucky law starts with the assumption that both parents should have equal access and rights to the child, this changes if there's an active Domestic Violence Order (DVO) in place. A DVO serves as strong evidence that equal access may not be in the child's best interest.
Finally, it’s important to understand that the key factor for the court is always what's best for the child, not what's most convenient or easiest for the parents. Ultimately, the court is willing to make decisions that are challenging for the parents if it believes those decisions will benefit the child's well-being.
Visitation arrangements can vary greatly for many reasons, but the most important factor tends to revolve around how close the parents live to each other.
If both parents live in the same town, Kentucky courts generally hold that kids should spend an equal amount of time with both parents whenever possible. On the other hand, if one parent lives very far away, the visitation options become limited.
In these cases, the kids might only get to visit the non-custodial parent a few times a year for longer periods of time during summer break or holiday vacations. Sometimes the court will even say that the parent who lives far away should be granted a “standing invitation” to visit the child in the state where they live.
Aside from location, another important factor the court considers is how well the parents can work together for the sake of the kids. If the parents don't get along well, the court might decide that it's better for one parent to have more time with the kids so that they can have a more emotionally stable environment.
In most cases, if parents can agree on a schedule themselves, the court will usually go along with it. The idea is that parents know their own kids and situations best, so if they can come to an agreement, that's probably a good solution. But when parents can’t agree, the court will usually start off by looking to establish a 50-50 time split and then adjust from there based on what's actually possible and best for the kids.
If you and your child’s other parent can't agree on important issues that impact your kids, you'll likely have to bring the matter in front of a judge. It’s important to note, however, that different counties in Kentucky have different rules about how custody cases work.
For example, some judges might ask you to try working things out with a professional mediator who is trained to help people make agreements by finding common ground. Ultimately, if talking things out in mediation doesn't work, then you'll have to go to court.
In court, you'll need to show evidence to the judge to support your case while following strict rules regarding what kinds of evidence can be shown and how it must be submitted. Once the judge has all the information, they will make a decision based on what they see to be in the best interest of the children. For more information on Child Custody In Kentucky, an initial consultation is your next best step.