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Joint Custody in Kentucky

What is Joint Custody?  The first issue Family Court must address in any divorce in Kentucky is child custody. The Judge must decide child custody in the best interest of the child or children.  More often than not, parties are awarded joint custody from Kentucky Family Court.

Joint custody means that you will continue to cooperate to make all care and control decisions (i.e. health, education, religious upbringing, welfare, and all other important and unimportant decisions you make for your children).  When I draft a Settlement Agreement, I use the following language to describe joint custody:

“In view of the love and concern each parent has for their children and the shared responsibility of both parents for their care, the parties shall have joint legal custody.  Joint custody includes, but is not limited to, each party having equal parental decision making regarding the well being, care, supervision, and control of their children.  The parties shall consult with each other with respect to the children’s education, religious training, summer and after school activities, illness and operations (except in emergencies), health, welfare, and other matters of similar importance affecting the children, whose well being, education, and development shall at all times be the paramount consideration of the parties.  Each party shall be entitled to complete detailed information from any school or other educational institution, any physician, dentist, consultant or specialist attending the children, and each party shall be furnished copies of any reports available from them.  Each party shall provide the other party with information related to the children as it becomes available to them.  Each party shall keep the other reasonably informed of the whereabouts of the children, and each party agrees that if either of them have any knowledge of any serious illness or accident or other circumstances affecting the children’s health or general welfare, prompt notice thereof will be given to the other of said circumstances.  If there is a disagreement between the parents as to any matter involving the children, they shall first attempt to discuss it between themselves before taking any other action.”

However, KRS 403.270, which is the principal child custody statute in Kentucky does not define joint custody.  The statute merely states that Kentucky Family Court may “…may grant joint custody to the child’s parents, or to the child’s parents and a de facto custodian, if it is in the best interest of the child”.  KRS 403.270(5).  My definition is based upon the case law interpreting the statute and experience.

Some changes are coming as the Bills passed by the 2017 Kentucky Legislature become effective.  On June 29, 2017, when a child custody or divorce case begins in Kentucky Family Court, a new statutory change states that “…there shall be a presumption, rebuttable by preponderance of evidence, that the parents or a de facto custodian joined under subsection (9) of this section shall have temporary joint custody and shall share equally in parenting time”.  KRS 403.280(2).  The same presumption is not built into the permanent custody statute (KRS 403.270), but will certainly impact permanent custody rulings.

A brief aside:  “Temporary” means everything after a Petition for Child Custody or Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, but before a Child Custody Decree or Divorce Decree is entered, and “Permanent” is the final determination of Kentucky Family Court in the Child Custody Decree or Divorce Decree.  To make matters a little more confusing, both Temporary and Permanent Child Custody are modifiable by Kentucky Family Court.

When determining the best interest of your child or children, Family Court has a list of factors to review. Kentucky Family Court may consider the wishes of the children; the wishes of each parent; the mental, physical, emotional, and moral well-being of each of the parties; the adjustment of the children to each parties’ home, school, community, and extended family; the relationship that each child has with each parent; the relationship that each child has with the extended members of the parties’ families; and the existence of domestic violence.

I have written a few other articles about child custody in Kentucky Family Court.  You may want to know more about Kentucky Child Custody, an Affidavit in a Child Custody case, how to talk to your Family Court Judge about Child Custody, Father’s Rights, or the law on child custody in Same Sex Relationships.

If you have more questions about Child Custody in Kentucky, I would be happy to talk.  Also, please feel free to learn more at or or if you are not ready to talk.  Thanks for reading.

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