Divorcing parents sometimes find it difficult to put their personal feelings aside during negotiations, which can make it difficult to reach an amicable child custody agreement. Discussions sometimes grind to a halt when one parent insists that they should have sole custody and the other parent should be content with visitation, but adopting this position would likely lead to disappointment in Kentucky. This is because the then-Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill into law in 2018 that made the Bluegrass State the first state in the country to legally presume joint custody in divorce cases.
Presumed joint custody
Judges in Kentucky have long preferred joint child custody because studies have shown that these arrangements are good for children, but they are now required to order equal parenting time unless the preponderance of the evidence makes it clear that such an outcome would not be in the best interests of the child. The 2018 law does make an exception when a court has issued a protective order because one of the parents has acted violently toward the child or another parent.
The preponderance of the evidence
While family law judges in Kentucky still have some discretion in these matters and can award sole custody, they are unlikely to do so unless the parent seeking it has compelling evidence. Parents who are unable to find an acceptable middle ground at the negotiating table and want to avoid costly and public court proceedings could pursue alternative approaches like collaborative divorce or mediation. They should also understand that professionals like judges, attorneys, and mediators can usually tell when parents try to mislead them or exaggerate accounts of neglect and cruelty.
The best interests of the child
Child custody negotiations are more productive and less combative when parents think about what is best for their children instead of focusing on what they want for themselves. Parents should consider their own childhoods and how being at the center of a custody dispute would have affected them, and they should remember that they can seek a child custody order modification if their worst fears are realized.