Child Custody Attorneys in Louisville
Disputes regarding child custody too often turn into emotional battles. Parents allow the fear of becoming a weekend mom or dad interfere with doing what is best for their child. In order to act in your child’s best interest, it is important to understand how Kentucky child custody law operates. The issues surrounding custody and parenting schedules has evolved in recent years. The courts have moved away from the old notions of mom being the primary caretaker of the children and dad being a weekend dad.
At John H. Ruby & Associates, we have represented clients in Kentucky for divorce and other family legal matters since 1999. We have seen how the courts and state laws have evolved in their views of child custody over the years, and we work closely with our clients to prepare for their proceeding based on these changes – with an eye toward continually protecting their rights and interests, and the best interests of their children.
The Differences Between Sole and Joint Custody
Child custody may refer to joint or sole legal and/or physical custody. When parents have joint legal custody of their child, they both make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, and general well-being. When a couple has joint legal custody, actual physical custody (i.e., parenting time) may either be shared, exclusive to one parent, or one parent may have the majority of parenting time.
A shared physical custody/parenting time arrangement is where the parents share residential responsibilities for one or more children. Shared physical custody arrangements have their own guidelines for child support.
Child custody proceedings in Kentucky now begin with the presumption that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interests of the child. This presumption is “rebuttable by the preponderance of evidence”, meaning the court may deviate from this standard if the evidence indicates that it is “more likely than not” that doing so would be in the child’s best interests.
In making its determination, the court considers several factors, including:
- The wishes and desires of the parents;
- The child’s wishes;
- The child’s relationship and interaction with the parents, siblings, and any other persons or family members;
- The mental and physical health of all parties involved;
- The child’s adjustment to school, home, and community;
- The ability of the parents to cooperate with each other;
- Any finding by the court that domestic violence or abuse has occurred.
While it is usually parents who are disputing custody of their children, grandparents and others may also seek and be awarded custody based on the criteria above. Kentucky law also recognizes “de facto custodians”, defined as primary caregivers and financial supporters of a child who have lived with the child for at least 6 months if the child is under three years of age, or for a minimum of 1 year if the child is three years of age or older.
Parents Have the First Control Over Child Custody Arrangements
Laws regarding child custody in Kentucky encourage co-parents to develop a custody arrangement outside of the court. Often, the courts suggest that a mediator be present when co-parents are discussing possible custody arrangements. Mediators and attorneys can provide additional information and advice that can help co-parents arrive at a manageable agreement.
When is a Child Custody Arrangement Determined by Kentucky Courts?
If a custody discussion or agreement cannot be reached by the co-parents, the court shall determine the best arrangement based on the child’s best interests. The best interest of a child is held over everything else by child custody laws when determining an adequate custody agreement. Initially, each co-parent is given equal consideration for child custody.
The court then observes and assesses individual circumstances before making a decision. Kentucky child courts and laws consider the following factors in determining the best interests of the child:
- Wishes of co-parents as well as de facto custodians of the child
- Wishes of the child depending on their maturity level and age
- Relationship between the child and co-parents and other individuals that may play a significant effect on the child’s best interests
- The physical and mental health of the co-parents and child
- The de facto custodian or co-parent that acted as the primary caretaker for the child’s life
- History of criminal offenses or violence by co-parents or de facto custodian
Shared Parenting Plan Examples
When parents have equally shared parenting time, the children spend roughly the same number of days throughout the year residing with each parent. While the goal is to give parents an equal amount of time with the children, there are an odd number of days during the year (365), so it would not be possible to achieve an exact 50/50 split.
Parenting schedules will vary depending on the unique circumstances of each family. It is always best for parents to work cooperatively to develop a schedule that takes into consideration all relevant factors and is acceptable for everyone. Here are some examples of shared parenting plans that provide for nearly equal time (for the child) with each parent. These plans may serve as a good starting point, and they can always be adjusted to fit your specific circumstances.
- Alternating Weeks
One of the simplest shared parenting schedules is for the child to spend alternate weeks with each parent. For example, week #1 is spent at mom’s house, week #2 at dad’s house, week #3 back to mom’s house, and so on. Many parents decide to make the switch on a Friday or Saturday, but you can pick whichever day works best for you. One possible variation of this schedule is to add a mid-week visit or even a mid-week overnight, so the child never has to go a full week without seeing either parent.
- 2-Weeks Each Schedule
For families who prefer a longer block of time with each parent, a 2-week each schedule might be preferable. With this arrangement, the child spends two consecutive weeks with one parent, then switches to the other parent for two weeks. Again, parents can decide the best day for the switch, and mid-week visits/overnights could also be added in, so the child can see both parents more frequently.
- 2-2-3 Rotations
With this parenting schedule, the child resides with parent A for two days, switches to parent B for two days, then switches back to parent A for a long weekend (usually Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The following week, the routine is reversed, and Parent B gets the child for the long weekend.
- 3-3-4-4 Rotations
With this schedule, the child spends three days with parent A, three days with parent B, four days with parent A, and four days with parent B. Then the cycle starts over again. This allows the child to be with one parent Sunday through Tuesday and the other parent Wednesday through Friday, and the only day that switches from week-to-week is Saturday.
- 2-2-5-5 Rotations
With this schedule, the child spends two days with parent A, two days with parent B, five days with parent A, and five days with parent B. This allows the child to spend Sundays and Mondays with one parent and Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the other, with Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays fluctuating from week-to-week.
Modifying a Child Custody Decree
Within the first two years of a court ruling on a child matter, the ruling cannot be modified. There is often an exception to every rule, however, and in this case, there are two:
- If the child is endangered in their current environment; or
- If the appointed custodian has placed the child with a de facto custodian.
In deciding whether a modification is appropriate, the court considers what is in the best interest of the child in addition to:
- Whether the custodial parent agrees to a modification;
- The assimilation of the child into the family of the party seeking the modification;
- If the child is endangered mentally, emotionally, or physically;
- Any harm associated with changing the child’s environment, as well as the benefits.
Contact the Experienced Kentucky Family Law Attorneys at John H. Ruby & Associates
If you are involved in a child custody case, there is simply too much at stake to risk not having strong legal representation during the proceedings. At John H. Ruby & Associates, we understand that custody can be a stressful and emotionally-charged, and we skillfully advocate for your rights and interests while doing everything possible to develop a peaceable and workable arrangement that all parties can live with.
For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 502-895-2626. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Louisville office at your convenience.