Although divorced parents in Kentucky often share legal custody of their children, they don't typically share physical custody. For the parent without physical custody, a visitation schedule protects that parent's right to spend time with the child. Parents should know the Kentucky laws regarding custody rights and related legal issues, such as child support or grandparent visitation.
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Types of Custody in Kentucky
In Kentucky, state courts often award legal custody to both parents. When parents share legal custody, they generally share parental decision-making rights. However, joint custody doesn't guarantee that the child will spend an equal amount of time between both parents' households. One parent generally has physical custody — known as residential custody in Kentucky -- wherein the child primarily lives in that parent's home. The parent without residential custody often has visitation rights and a schedule for parent-child time. However, a state court may deny visitation rights or require supervised visitation if necessary to protect the child's safety and well-being.
Parents can informally arrange a visitation schedule between themselves. However, either parent may prefer to obtain a court order from a Kentucky court because the court order allows for enforcement by a judge if the other parent has a change of heart or wants to change the arrangement. A court can issue a custody order during an ongoing divorce, paternity or child support case, or as part of a new case regarding child custody only. When determining visitation rights, state courts must emphasize the child's best interests rather than rely on the parents' requests. In addition, Kentucky courts often set visitation based on guideline schedules that recommend a specific duration for visits and explain how to share the child's time on holidays and other special occasions.
Child Support and Visitation
If the parent with residential custody does not comply with a court order for visitation, the other parent might feel tempted to react by withholding child support payments. Similarly, the parent with residential custody might want to prevent regularly scheduled visitation if the other parent stops paying child support. Neither type of decision is allowed by Kentucky law. The amount of child support is calculated by the state court and, in general, the obligation to pay child support does not change when a parent spends little time with the child. However, either parent may return to court to request changes to the visitation schedule. If a parent's visitation time significantly increases, the court might agree to change the child support obligation.
Kentucky allows grandparents to request visitation rights through the state courts. Under state law, a court may grant visitation rights to grandparents if doing so would be in the grandchild's best interests. To determine the grandchild's best interests, the court may look at the grandparent's relationship with the grandchild and the amount of contact between the two in the past. Although the court may establish grandparent visitation rights, the court might not necessarily require a certain number of visits; instead, the court may defer to the grandchild's parents.