Divorce & Joint Custody Laws in Kentucky

By Mary Jane Freeman

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Joint custody is not defined in Kentucky law. However, as in all states, Kentucky's Revised Statutes provide the standard by which all custody arrangements are to be decided -- including joint custody -- and that is "in the best interests of the child." Therefore, if you can demonstrate to the court that sharing custody with your ex-spouse is in your child's best interests, the court will likely honor your request and adopt joint custody as the official custody arrangement in your final divorce decree.

Joint Custody

Custody comes in two forms: physical and legal. Physical custody, known as residential custody in Kentucky, represents where the child lives. Legal custody represents the parent's right to make important decisions for the child, such as religion, education and medical treatment. When courts award joint custody in Kentucky, both parents are typically granted joint legal custody with one parent serving as the child's primary residential parent, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. However, Kentucky courts will sometimes award both joint legal custody and joint physical custody. This arrangement is known as joint custody with equal parenting time. Since joint custody requires cooperation between parents, the court may employ the services of a parenting coordinator when parents are in disagreement.

50/50 Parenting Time

Joint residential custody in Kentucky is sometimes referred to as 50/50 custody or 50/50 parenting time. In such arrangements, parents spend equal, or almost equal, time with their child. Since Kentucky favors joint custody arrangements over sole custody, where one parent has physical custody, legal custody or both, 50/50 parenting time arrangements are not uncommon and may come in various forms. For example, each parent may have residential custody of their child during alternating weeks instead of one parent having custody during the week and the other parent having custody only on the weekends.

Best Interests of the Child

If parents are unable to reach a custody agreement on their own, the court will make the decision for them based on what arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court evaluates a variety of factors, including the wishes of the parents, child's relationship with each parent and adjustment to his home, school and community, and the physical and mental health of the parents and child. While the court will also consider the wishes of the child, it won't base its decision on the child's wishes alone. The court may also order a psychologist-prepared custody evaluation, if necessary.

Child Support

Although Kentucky has established child support guidelines by which to calculate child support, it has yet to create a formula that applies to 50/50 parenting time custody arrangements. Nonetheless, child support may be awarded in such cases, particularly if one parent makes more money than the other. However, the higher earning parent is likely to pay a lower amount in child support than would otherwise be assigned in a joint custody with primary residential parent arrangement.