What happens when parents disagree on custody?

With a new law passed in 2018, Kentucky is now the only state with default joint custody laws. Unless one parent can prove domestic abuse or neglect committed by the other parent, both have the equal right to parenting time.

As part of your divorce agreement, you and your former spouse can create a parenting schedule that works for your family. When you cannot agree, the court will decide on your behalf.

Physical vs. legal custody

Physical custody refers to the amount of time the child spends living in each parent’s home. Although 50/50 physical custody is the starting point for negotiation, some families prefer that one parent have sole physical custody while the other parent has regular visitation.

Even when parents do not have 50/50 physical custody, they can still share legal custody. This gives both parents input on important decisions like the child’s religious instruction, health care and education.

Factors in determining a custody arrangement

If you disagree that 50/50 physical custody is in your child’s best interest, you can present evidence to this effect during divorce proceedings. The judge will consider:

  • Where each parent lives
  • Where the child goes to school
  • The child’s wishes if he or she is old enough to express a preference
  • The child’s existing attachment to school, community and family members nearby
  • The mental and physical health of the child and both parents
  • Any evidence of abuse or neglect

The court allows sole custody only in cases involving domestic violence. Otherwise, the judge will order 50/50 custody or a similar arrangement depending on the factors above. The court will only deny visitation when contact with a parent would severely impact the child’s well-being, mental health or physical safety.

Child custody cases rarely go to trial in Kentucky. However, if you and your co-parent cannot come up with an amenable plan after negotiation and mediation, the default legal standard will apply to your case.