Child custody basics
Custody orders determine who takes care of or makes decisions for the child. Legal custody determines which parent has the right to participate in important decisions like the child’s heath care, education, and other important matters. Residential custody determines which parent will live with the child most of the time.
Courts do not favor either parent when making custody decisions even if they are unmarried. The best interests of the child govern their decision.
Courts typically award joint legal custody to both parents. Sole custody refers to one parent receiving legal custody but is rarely ordered. Courts may order sole custody if the other parent has drug or alcohol problems or cannot be located.
Courts will consider many factors when determining which parent receives residential custody if it ordered joint custody. These include the child’s age and gender, the parents’ and child’s health, the parents’ wishes, the relationships and behaviors in each parent’s household, whether there was any domestic violence and the impact of any changes to the child’s home, school or community. The child’s preferences are also a factor especially if the child is at least 14 years old.
Kentucky law assumes that men are the father of a child born during their marriage. However, the man may not have to pay child support if DNA testing demonstrates that that he is not the child’s father. This also makes him ineligible for custody or visitation rights.
If the man and the mother agree that he is the child’s father, courts can issue orders without DNA testing. DNA testing is required if the mother disagrees that the man is the father or another man makes a fatherhood claim. Establishing paternity is grounds for seeking custody, visitation, and other rights.
Parents who agree to custody matters should seek a court order because their relationship may change. This order strengthens enforcement.
Without a court order, a parent will have to seek court intervention if the other parent refuses to return the child. Custody orders may be made part of other divorce, support or family law matters in court.
Attorneys can assist you in these matters. Lawyers may also assure that a fair and reasonable order is sought that is in the child’s best interests.