What factors influence child custody in Kentucky?

Kentucky passed a law in 2018 mandating default joint child custody except when one parent has a domestic violence history. In cases where both parents have the ability to care for and nurture their minor children, each will share physical parenting time as well as legal custody (the ability to make important decisions on the child’s behalf). 

If you are considering divorce in Kentucky, which is currently the only U.S. state to with default joint custody, learn more about how child custody and parenting time work in the state. 

Defining legal and physical custody 

The state defines physical custody as the amount of time the child spends in each parent’s residence. Parents can either accept the 50/50 parenting time default or establish one home as the primary residence with a fair amount of parenting time for the other parent, depending on family preference. 

In either case, the parents will share legal custody. Both have input on decisions that influence the child’s education, health care, religious upbringing and other key areas. 

Creating a parenting agreement 

When both parents agree to 50/50 custody, the court will enter this plan as the legal custody agreement. The distance between the parents’ homes, the child’s school and other factors may prevent an exactly even split of parenting time. 

Usually, Kentucky parents reach an agreement with the help of their attorneys or an independent mediator. In some cases, however, one parent may have concerns about the child’s safety and well-being in the other parent’s home. A parent who asks the judge for sole custody must be able to display evidence of domestic abuse committed by the other parent. 

In this case, the court will schedule a hearing at which both parents can present a case for custody. The judge uses the best interest standard to ensure that joint physical custody serves the child’s well-being, considering his or her existing connection to school, community, and extended family; existing relationships with peers; and the child’s wishes if he or she is old enough to express a preference.