How Is Child Custody Determined in Kentucky?

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.

Factors include:

  • 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.