Any parent who does not have custody of a minor child is entitled to visitation with the child, according to Kentucky law. However, a judge will limit or deny visitation if the court finds that visitation is not in the best interests of the child. For instance, a parent who is accused of abusing alcohol in the presence of the child could lose his visitation rights. Kentucky also gives grandparents the option to petition the court for visitation rights, which is not possible in every state.
Parents have the option to set the visitation schedule in most cases, but the court will determine the schedule when parents cannot agree or in a case where domestic abuse has been alleged. Kentucky courts usually base the schedule on the Model Time-Sharing/Visitation Guidelines published as an appendix to the Family Court Rules of Procedure and Practice. The guidelines suggest a detailed visitation schedule that includes holidays, birthdays, school breaks and summer breaks. The guidelines also provide suggestions for communication between parents, travel plans, telephone visitation and parental behavior in front of the child.
The primary consideration Kentucky courts use in establishing a visitation schedule is what is in the best interests of the child. The court will take into consideration the age and health of the child, the size of the home, other people in the home and any circumstance that affects the child’s well-being. Visitation might be affected by allegations of drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence or sexual abuse. Kentucky judges have the option to interview a child in chambers or consult with a professional to aid in decisions on child visitation.
Kentucky courts will deny or limit visitation only when visitation is a serious threat to the child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health. In such cases, the court might order daytime visitation only or supervised visitation, when a specified adult stays in the presence of the noncustodial parent and child during the visit. The court has the authority to deny visitation to a parent who is convicted of killing the other parent, unless the convicted parent proves in a hearing that allowing visitation is in the best interests of the child.
As the child ages, the visitation schedule often needs to change. One parent can ask the court to change the schedule or both parents can agree to changes. If the parents agree and submit a new schedule in writing to the court, they will not have to go before a judge. However, one parent cannot change the schedule or withhold visitation without the permission of the other parent or the court. If the custodial parent does not allow the noncustodial parent to have visitation, the noncustodial parent can file a contempt complaint against the other parent. A contempt ruling could result in extra visitation to the noncustodial parent or a fine and possibly jail time for the custodial parent. The custodial parent does not have the option to withhold visitation if the noncustodial parent is not paying child support.
Kentucky is more liberal than many states in considering grandparent visitation. Kentucky grandparents can petition the court for visitation with grandchildren if the parents will not allow it. The petitioning grandparent must show only that it is in the best interests of the child to be considered by the court. The court will take into consideration such factors as the relationship or visitation between the grandparent and the child and the relationship between the grandparents and the parent. However, established grandparent visitation will not be affected by a termination of the parent’s rights.