When spouses have joint children upon divorce, custody can be determined by either a parenting agreement or court order. If by a parenting agreement, the parents have often separated amicably and created an agreement between themselves or have established the agreement through the mediation process. Parents who are unable to create a parenting agreement can establish custody through Kentucky family court. To establish custody, a judge will consider multiple aspects of the parents’ and child’s respective situations.
Joint custody and de facto parents
Unlike some other states, Kentucky law does not have a presumption in favor of joint custody. This means that parents do not have a burden of showing that the other parent shouldn’t be given custody. In practice, judges can give sole custody to one parent or a “de facto” parent. A de facto parent is one who is not a biological parent but has been a primary caregiver and financial supporter for a specific period of time. De facto parents can receive custody the same as a biological parent.
Best interest of the child factors
Whether custody is given to a parent or de facto parent relies on a court’s assessment of the “best interest of the child” factors. No factor is necessarily more important than others, and all factors are collectively evaluated.
- Wishes of a parent, de facto parent, and child;
- Relationships among the child, siblings, and other persons who may impact the child;
- Adjustment to school, home, and community;
- Physical and mental health of all individuals involved;
- Whether domestic violence occurred between the parents;
- De facto parent’s role in the child’s life;
- Parents’ intent and circumstances of placement of the child with a de facto parent;
Because Kentucky provides courts with many options for establishing custody, a party to a custody action may feel more at ease navigating the laws with a highly skilled attorney.