Divorcing parents in Kentucky are more likely to find themselves sharing custody of the children than ever before. That’s because lawmakers amended Kentucky’s child custody laws to presume that it’s best for children to split time equally with each parent after a divorce. Courts don’t have to order joint custody if they think it’s likely to cause abuse and neglect of a child. Otherwise, joint custody with equal parenting time is the new normal in Kentucky, instead of the exception.
Parents don’t have to agree on a joint custody arrangement or even a parenting schedule in order for the court to award joint custody under the new law. Instead, the court may impose the schedule that they see fit as long as it’s as equal as possible. The law doesn’t change custody agreements that are already in place.
Parents must file an affidavit affirmatively demanding to exercise their parenting time. If a parent fails to file the affidavit, the court may award primary custody to the other parent. Parents must be sure to submit their affidavit timely, so that the court can consider it when making their initial decision.
In addition to the court considering whether joint custody may cause abuse and neglect, Kentucky’s new parenting law allows the court to make sure that both parents have adequate housing for the child. This means having a place for a child to sleep for at least eight hours each day without interruptions. It also means that a parent must have adequate food, clothing and other daily necessities for the child. If a parent doesn’t have adequate housing and other provisions for the child, the court should still try to maximize time with each parent in a way that ensures the child’s safety.
The vote for the new law was unanimous among Kentucky lawmakers. Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne sponsored the bill along with representatives Jason Petrie and Robby Mills. Lawmakers that support the bill say that their position has the backing of research on outcomes for children. Dr. Ryan Schroeder of the University of Louisville testified in support of the bill at hearings in the Kentucky legislature.
The National Parents Organization of Kentucky also publicly supported the bill. Governor Matt Bevin signed it into law in July, 2017. In addition to improved outcomes for children, supporters hope that the new law reduces animosity during divorce, because in most cases, parents no longer have to worry about losing the majority of the time with their children.