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As of a new law passed in 2018, Kentucky is currently the only state in which family courts default to joint legal and physical child custody. Unless one parent has a history of domestic violence, both parents will have the opportunity to spend equal time and share equal rights over their children.

Couples who live in Kentucky and divorce must create a co-parenting agreement that serves the best interest of their children.

Legal vs. physical custody

Although the default in the state is 50/50 custody, in which the child spends equal time living with each parent, some families may prefer different arrangements because of distance, job responsibilities or educational activities. Even when one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation, both parents typically share legal custody. This means that each parent has a say in factors that influence the child’s care and upbringing, including but not limited to medical care, religious education and schooling.

The parenting agreement process

When you and the child’s other parent agree on a parenting schedule, you simply document your agreement with the help of your attorneys and submit it to the court before your divorce hearing. When parents do not agree, the judge may require mediation to help resolve the custody conflict. If you want to seek sole custody because of domestic violence, you must present proof of past abuse during the court hearing.

If an agreement is still out of reach, the court will automatically order 50/50 custody unless this schedule does not support the best interests of the child. The best interest standard requires consideration of the child’s existing relationships, connection to community and school, and health and well-being; and his or her wishes if the child is school-aged.

According to a 2019 report by the Courier-Journal, family court cases involving custody have declined by 11% since the new Kentucky law took effect last year, even as the state’s population grew over the same period.