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Kentucky Child Custody Laws

When parents split up, the family court often has to help determine child custody issues. If parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, the court decides who the child or children will live with, who gets to make the major life decisions for the child (such as educational or health decisions), and what visitation will be like with the non-custodial parent and possibly grandparents.

Kentucky bases its child custody decisions on the best interests of the child standard. The judge considers many different factors to determine what is best for the child, including the parents’ wishes and ability to parent, the child’s wishes, the emotional bonds between the child and both parents, and how hard a time the child would have adjusting to a new neighborhood or school. Domestic violence and child abuse can impact who the child lives with because it can affect the child’s wellbeing. Many years ago, the “tender years” doctrine usually gave moms custody of young children, but now no parent is given an advantage simply based on their gender.

The table below details the main child custody laws in Kentucky.

Code Sections Kentucky Revised Statutes
Chapter 403 – Marriage Dissolution--Child Custody
Chapter 405 – Parent and Child
Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted Kentucky adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act in 1980 and then updated with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in 2004.
Joint Custody Yes, joint custody is permitted, if it’s in the best interest of a child. However, if the situation requires, sole custody is available.
Grandparent Visitation Rights Yes, Kentucky law permits grandparents to have reasonable visitation rights, even if the parent (their child) is deceased. However, this law is from 1996 and predates an important grandparent visitation rights U.S. Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville.

The issue is interfering with the parent’s right to raise their child. This right is the parents, not the grandparents, unless, for example, the grandparents are the de facto custodians who have raised the child.
Child's Wishes Considered Yes, Kentucky does consider the wishes of the child, but doesn’t specify an age at which the child wishes must be considered.

If you need help in establishing or modifying your child custody orders, you should speak with an experienced Kentucky child custody lawyer.

Note: As state laws change frequently, it’s important to verify any laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.

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