As of July 1, 2018, KRS 403.270 will be amended, and Kentucky law will officially recognize that parents involved in a custody or divorce case will have the statutory right to petition the Court for equal parenting time for their children. While the practice of joint custody has been an unwritten rule in the state for the past few years by many judges, the revision to the custody statute makes it clear that courts are to default to an equal parenting time schedule for each parent, unless evidence is presented by a party in a proceeding that there are safety issues present in such parenting time arrangement.
The key change to the custody statute reads as follows:
“There shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child. If a deviation from equal parenting time is warranted, the court shall construct a parenting time schedule which maximizes the time each parent or de facto custodian has with the child and is consistent with ensuring the child’s welfare.”
A Family Court’s hands will not be bound to the new statutory language if a Court determines after an evidentiary hearing that it is in the “best interest” of the child that a deviation from equal parenting is justified. However, there are new statutory factors that the courts may consider in any such evidentiary hearing on parenting time that focus on the individual petitioning custodian. In determining what is in the best interest of a child in a custody hearing, the court will also hear any evidence on “the influence a parent or de facto custodian may have over the child’s wishes” as to who is their custodian, and “the motivation of the adults in participating in the custody proceedings.”
Kentucky’s custody statute was previously amended to apply equal shared parenting time to temporary custody order last year.