Updated: 2021-09-23 by
Kentucky courts use the "best interest of the child" standard to make child custody decisions. Specifically, judges refer to Kentucky Statutes Section 403.270 which says:
The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and equal consideration shall be given to each parent . . .
How Courts Make Child Custody Decisions in Kentucky
Kentucky law directs the court to consider the following list of specific factors when deciding what is in the best interest of a child:
- the wishes of the child's parents and any "de facto" custodian (to be a de facto custodian, the custodian must meet the legal standards described in KS 403.270(1))
- the wishes of the child, considering any influence a parent or de facto custodian may have over these wishes
- the child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and anyone else who may significantly affect the child's best interests
- the motivation of the adults participating in the custody proceeding
- the child's adjustment and continuing proximity to home, school, and community
- the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- domestic violence by one of the parties against the child or another party
- the extent to which the child has been cared for, nurtured, and supported by a de facto custodian
- the intent of the parent or parents in placing the child with a de facto custodian and the circumstances under which the child was placed or allowed to remain in the custody of a de facto custodian
- the likelihood a party will allow the child frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with the other parent or de facto custodian, unless there is a finding of domestic violence that endangers the health or safety the child or another party
The law gives Kentucky judges a lot of flexibility to establish parental rights and responsibilities based on the best interest of the child. However, the law states that the court must start from a presumption that joint custody and shared parenting time will be in the child's best interest.
Court Should be Your Last Resort
Going to court to get custody of a child will be stressful for you and, worse, tough on the children. Also, because judges have so much flexibility to make custody decisions, it leaves the family vulnerable to the biased opinions of individual judges. For these reasons and more, a court case is something to pursue only if all other options—like negotiation and mediation—have failed. Take advantage of all the resources available to you for creating a parenting plan before subjecting yourself and your kids to a court battle.
Studying the law. This article summarizes the key factors courts use to make custody decisions in Kentucky. That said, family law is a complicated subject and laws do change. We recommend that you read the full version of Kentucky Statutes Section 403.270, available from the Kentucky State Legislature.
Working with a lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer, mediator, or both, ask them for help understanding how Kentucky law applies to your specific circumstances.
Finding your local family court. In Kentucky, family law cases are handled in the county circuit courts. Be sure to take advantage of any self-help resources your court offers.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in Kentucky, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in Kentucky so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.
Answers to common questions about Kentucky custody enforcement, including whether police will enforce a custody order.