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“Off-Grid” Custody Case Shows Hazards of Ignoring Kentucky Family Law

Child custody

The ongoing courtroom battle over who should have custody of 10 Kentucky children being raised “off-grid” by their parents Joe and Nicole Naugler raises important legal issues over the state’s role in ensuring the safety and welfare of children living within the state, and the need for parents to be mindful of Kentucky state requirements and procedures for maintaining custody of their children.

Kentucky state child protection workers removed the Naugler’s 10 children from their home back in May after a series of complaints and run-ins with local and state officials. At the time, the family was living on a 27-acre homestead in Garfield. Their home was a tin shack with a tarp instead of a front wall, with no running water or toilets and only a generator for electricity. The 10 children also did not attend school, although the family indicated the children were schooled at home. After the family asked a neighbor for water, the neighbor called the sheriff’s department, complaining the family had threatened him with a gun. A deputy delivered a summons to attempt a welfare check on behalf of Child Protective Services, but the mother of the children resisted the deputy’s attempts to check on the welfare of the children. She was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, and the 10 children were placed in four different foster homes.

The children were eventually returned to the physical custody of the Nauglers in July (the Nauglers now reportedly have improved living facilities), but the state retained legal custody of the children, meaning the state and not the parents has the power to make decisions regarding the children’s welfare. The Naugler parents, who have been aided by a groundswell of public support by people who support the “off the grid” lifestyle, returned to Kentucky state court in September to ask for legal custody of the 10 children to be returned to them, but reports indicate that the custody issue was not resolved.

This case demonstrates that, while parents do have a wide latitude in determining how to raise their children, the state does have some say in ensuring minimal standards for living conditions and other welfare issues on behalf of Kentucky children, and the state can act decisively to remove children from parents’ custody. While no parents would want the state to take legal or physical custody over their children against their will, it is important to work with local and state law enforcement and child protective authorities in resolving safety concerns, or else the parents likely risk unwanted outcomes such as those seen here.

When dealing with the all-important stakes of a custody issue, it is crucial to choose an attorney whom you can trust to represent your interests zealously and knowledgeably, while also treating you with compassion. Contact the law firm of John Ruby and Associates for a consultation on your Kentucky family law case by calling 502-895-2626.