Ending a relationship or going through a divorce is never an easy process. Even though splitting up assets and other marital items can be difficult, having to deal with child custody issues can be an emotional and difficult process. When it comes to child custody issues in the state of Kentucky, the family court system will always make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child, regardless of whether or not it is what the mother and/or father requested during the court case.
De Facto Custodians in Kentucky
If the child involved in the custody case is under the age of three, a de facto custodian can be determined. This person is anyone who has been the primary caregiver and financial supporter of the child for a period of six months or more. For any child or children over the age of three, a de facto custodian is anyone who has been a primary caregiver, financial supporter, and has lived with the child for a period of one year or more. Should a de facto custodian exist, based on clear and convincing evidence, the judge will give them the same consideration as a parent during the case.
Joint Legal Custody in Kentucky
When it comes to child custody issues, it has been proven that having both parents involved in the child or children’s lives is an important part of their emotional and developmental upbringing. Family court systems will always strive to award a joint custody agreement, whether it is something the parents agreed on outside of court or something that is decided in the court room. If a joint custody agreement is found to be of the highest benefit to the child or children involved, this will likely be the judgment.
What Determines “Best Interests of the Child” in Kentucky
When making a child custody decision, the judge will always do what he or she determines is in the best interest of the child or children involved. This gives the judge a broad degree of discretion when making a decision and will base the choices on a number of different factors that may include:
- The custody desires of both parents as well as any de facto custodian that has been identified
- The custody desires of the child or children involved
- The relationship between the child or children and both parents, as well as the relationship between the child or children and any identified de facto custodian
- The relationship between the child or children involved and any siblings they may have living with either of the parents
- The child or children’s involvement in different activities or aspects of their school, church, community, and in their current home
- The mental health factors of the child or children, both parents, and any identified de facto custodian that may affect custody
- Both parents’ ability to be a proper caregiver for the child or children including their parenting ability and how they can nurture/support the child or children
- If either parent has any history of domestic violence
What Determines Child Custody in Kentucky
Based on the information that is gathered in regards to what is in the best interests of the child or children, the judge will make a decision about the custody of that child or children. Ideally, a joint custody agreement can be arranged to keep both parents involved, but if this is not possible, the judge will determine which living situation and with which parent the child or children will live. Consideration will also be given to any de facto custodians that were identified during the course of the case.
Additionally, the court will only look at the conduct of each possible custodian based on how that behavior affects the child or children involved. For example, if one of the possible custodians was involved in an adulterous relationship, those allegations will only be reviewed as they relate to the well-being of the child or children or if there are accusations of domestic violence between the parents, it will only be reviewed based on how those actions may or may not have affected the child or children.
Child Custody Modification in Kentucky
As the child or children get older and their or the parents’ situations change, it is possible for a modification to the child custody agreement to be necessary. Generally, if both parents agree on the proposed change, they will just need to notify the court that the change has occurred and it will be made legally binding. Child custody agreement modifications become more difficult when one parent does not agree to the change and the issue needs to be heard during a court case to be resolved.
When a change to the child custody agreement is needed and one parent does not agree, the parent who is requesting the change will carry the burden of proof as to why the modification is needed. The bar for proving this point is set very high as Kentucky family courts do not prefer to make unnecessary changes to child custody agreements and disrupt the child or children’s schedule without good reason – this has been shown to have a negative impact on their mental and emotional well-being.
In order to prove that a child custody agreement modification needs to be made, the requesting parent will need to prove the following to the standards set by the family court judge:
- A significant change has occurred to prompt the request for modification
- The modification will benefit the child or children in some way
- The changes/disruptions the child or children will endure will be offset by the proposed benefits they will experience due to the modification
Child Custody and Relocation in Kentucky
In many ways, requests for relocation and requests for modification are the same. If both parents agree to the proposed relocation, they will need to notify the court of the move and have a new agreement made legally binding. Again, if one parent is looking to relocate and the other parent does not agree, the case will need to be heard by a judge and decided within the court. This is most often an issue when the parent who has primary custody of the child or children wants to relocate and take the child or children.
Once again, the burden for proving why the relocation is needed will fall with the parent who wants to move should both parents be in disagreement about the issue. Some of the points the family court judge will review when making a decision whether or not to allow the relocation will include:
- The reasons given by the requesting parent as to why the relocation is needed, such as providing better employment opportunities, better educational opportunities for the child or children, or being closer to a family/friend support system
- The proposed benefits to the child or children should the relocation be approved
- The ages of the child or children involved
- The genders of the child or children involved
- The relationships between the child or children and both the requesting and non-requesting parent
- What alternative communication options are available and the cost of them for the non-requesting parent to continue regular communication with the child or children