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Legal Information: Kentucky

Kentucky Custody

Laws current as of
September 21, 2017

This page includes information about custody that is specific to this state. There is also a page with general custody information that you may find helpful.

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

A judge will make a decision about custody based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest. According to Kentucky law, when determining what is in the best interest of the child, the judge will look at:

  • The wishes of the child’s parent(s) and any de facto custodian as to the child’s custody;
  • The child’s preference for who s/he wants to live with;
  • The interaction and relationship the child has with his/her parent(s), siblings, and any other person that might significantly affect the child’s best interest;
  • The child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • Information, records and evidence of domestic violence;
  • The extent to which the child has been taken care of by any de facto custodian;
  • The intent of the parent(s) in placing the child with a de facto custodian;
  • The reason(s) the child was placed under the care of a de facto custodian (i.e., if the parent seeking custody had to leave the child to find work, attend school, etc.); and
  • Whether the parent now seeking custody was previously prevented from doing so as a result of domestic violence.*

De facto custodian” means a person who has been the primary caregiver for, and financial supporter of, a child who has resided with the person for a period of six months or more if the child is under three years of age and for a period of one year or more if the child is three years of age or older (or has been placed by the Department for Community Based Services).**

Note: If you leave the family home as a result of physical harm or if you were seriously threatened with physical harm by the other parent, this is not supposed to be held against you. ***

* KRS § 403.270(2)
** KRS § 403.270(1)(a)
*** KRS § 403.270(4)

Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?

Possibly. The court will evaluate how the domestic violence and abuse has affected the child and the child’s relationship to both parents.*  The law says that a parent who is not granted custody is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the judge finds, after a hearing, that visitation would seriously endanger the child's physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.**  If the judge determines that there was domestic violence but the judge believes there should still be visitation, s/he should make a visitation arrangement which would not seriously endanger the physical, mental, or emotional health of the child or of the abused parent.*** 

Note: If either you or the other parent request it, the judge is supposed to issue an order that specifically lays out how often visitation should be, how long the visits are, when it should take place, the conditions for the visits, and a method of scheduling visitation.  The order should also reflect the development and age of the child.**

Often it is best to have a in a custody case, especially one involving domestic violence issues.  For information on how to find a lawyer, see our KY Finding a Lawyer page.

* KRS § 403.270(3)
** KRS § 403.320(1)
*** KRS § 403.320(2)

If my child was conceived from sexual assault, can the offender get custody or visitation?

It depends. If the offender was convicted of a felony offense related to rape/sexual assault that caused you to conceive your child, the offender cannot get custody or visitation rights (or the right of to inherit any money with respect to that child) unless you specifically request the judge to order visitation rights. The offender will still have to pay child support, however, unless you do not want it.*

* KY ST §§ 405.028; 403.322

If there is a custody order in place, can I relocate?

If there is an order of joint custody and either parent wants to relocate, s/he has to file a written notice with the court and have it served upon the other parent. If the parents do not agree to the relocation, either parent can file a motion for change of custody or time-sharing within 20 days of when the notice of relocation was served. If both parents agree, they can make a written agreement to modify the time-sharing and file an "agreed order" with the court.*

If there is an order of sole custody and the sole custodian wants to relocate, s/he has to file a written notice with the court and have it served upon the other parent. If the court-ordered visitation would be affected by the relocation, the non-custodial parent can file a motion objecting to the change in visitation within 20 days of when s/he was served with the notice.**

* Kentucky Family Rules of Practice and Procedure FCRPP 7(2)(a)
** Kentucky Family Rules of Practice and Procedure FCRPP 7(2)(b)

Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visits?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to KY Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.

Where can I find more information about custody in Kentucky?

Legal Aid Network of Kentucky provides the following information:

Please know that we are not affiliated with the above organization and cannot vouch for the information contained on their site.