Kentucky Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make my Kentucky parenting plan / child custody agreement?

You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can I use the laws of Kentucky to help me with my parenting plan?

Understanding the laws pertaining to child custody and visitation is helpful when creating a parenting plan in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

These laws can be found in the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Chapter 403.00, Dissolution of Marriage - Child Custody.

Can nonparents be awarded custody in Kentucky?

Yes. The Commonwealth of Kentucky recognizes the parents' inherent right to be the natural custodians of their child, but also provides the means for a nonparent to be awarded the same rights (KRS 403-270-1).

Any person, whether related to the child or not, may be designated as a "de facto custodian" if convincing evidence is shown and certain criteria are met.

In Kentucky, what is a "de facto custodian"?

A de facto custodian is a nonparent who has assumed the responsibility of raising a child. They're often relatives, but they don't have to be. Section 403.270 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes covers this.

For you to be considered a de facto custodian, the child must have lived with you for at least six months (if they're under the age of three) or for at least twelve months (if they're over the age of three or placed with you by the Department for Community Based Services) and you must have served as their primary caregiver and financial supporter during that time.

A de facto custodian has the same standing in child custody matters as a natural parent. This means they have equal right to seek custody of the children and to propose a parenting plan / custody agreement.

What else should I know about de facto custodians in Kentucky?

Even if you meet the requirements for being a de facto custodian, simply taking care of the child for that period of time does not guarantee that you will be designated as a de facto custodian nor that you will be awarded custody.

The court prefers parents in most cases. It is only in situations where the parent is unwilling to care for the child that a de facto custodian is awarded custody.

Simply being unable to care for your child, whether because of military duties, health problems, or being in jail is not enough to warrant another person being awarded custody of your child.

If a parent is willing and able to properly care for their child, the court will usually find that remaining with the parent is in the child's best interest.

What does the court consider when ruling on custody matters in Kentucky?

The best interest of the child should be considered and respected when creating a parenting plan and it is the greatest determining factor when awarding custody in Kentucky.

The court considers all relevant factors when determining the child's best interests, including, but not limited to the following (KRS 403-270-2):

  • The wishes of the parents (and/or de facto custodian) pertaining to the custody of the child. If parents can agree, the court usually accepts their agreement. If they will not cooperate with each other, it is up to the judge to decide.
  • Any preference of the child as to his or her custodian, if the child is old enough to make such a decision.
  • The child's relationships and history of interaction with each of the parents (and/or de facto custodian), other adults important in the child's life, and any siblings the child may have.
  • How well the child is acclimated to his or her home, school, and community and whether or not interrupting the continuity of his or her surroundings would have a positive or negative impact on the child.
  • The physical and mental health of the child, the parents (and/or de facto custodian), and any other persons involved.
  • Whether or not there is a history or evidence of domestic violence.
  • Whether or not the child has been cared for and nurtured by a de facto custodian and the extent of the child's attachment to this person.
  • If there is a de facto custodian, the nature of the intentions of the parent(s) or DCBS when placing the child with him or her.
  • The circumstances in which the child was allowed to remain in the care of the de facto custodian, specifically including whether or not the parent now seeking custody was prevented from retrieving the child due to domestic violence or if he or she left the child with the de facto custodian in an effort to attend school, work, or seek employment.

In Kentucky, what should I know about joint custody?

Joint custody means that both parents are given the rights and responsibilities of raising and caring for the child.

The court may grant joint custody to the child's parents or to the child's parent(s) and/or the de facto custodian if it is found to be in the child's best interests.

A de facto custodian awarded custody of the child shall also have legal custody of the child (KRS 403-270-6).

What should I include in my Kentucky parenting plan / custody agreement?

There isn't a lot of specific information that Kentucky requires in the custody agreement. In general, a good agreement will contain:

  • Information about how the parents will share the decision-making responsibility and authority for their child.
  • Information about where the child will reside and when the child will spend time with each parent.
  • Information about how the parents will make changes to the agreement and resolve disputes about the agreement.
  • Other information about how the parents will continue to provide care for the child after they separate.
  • Additional information about how the parents will make the agreement work, like how they will handle exchanges, communicate about the child, divide how they will attend school meetings, etc.

A parenting plan / custody agreement should be as unique as your child is. By working together to determine and meet the specific needs of your child, a plan can be created that is fair to both parents and it especially beneficial to the child.

In Kentucky, what happens if we cannot agree on a parenting plan?

Should you and the other parent fail to reach an agreement on your own, the court is free to employ invasive actions, which includes investigating both of you, your homes, questioning your friends and neighbors, and even questioning your child (KRS 403.300).

The investigator(s) then report their findings back to the court, and the judge will decide the custody of your child. When you can put your differences aside for the sake of your child and work together to form a parenting plan, everyone benefits.

Working with the other parent to develop a parenting plan in accordance with the law and consistent with the requirements of the court will ensure the best interests of your child are maintained and make it more likely for your parenting plan is accepted by the court.

The top fifteen cities in Kentucky (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Louisville, Lexington, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Covington, Richmond, Hopkinsville, Henderson, Florence, Frankfort, Nicholasville, Jeffersontown, Paducah, Elizabethtown, Radcliff.

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