New Joint Custody, Equal Time-sharing Law Becoming Effective
On July 1, 2018, the default for separating families will be joint custody and equal parenting time or time-sharing in Kentucky. Kentucky lawmakers unanimously approved the new law. The default in Kentucky now, is that both parents have an equal say in legal, educational and medical decisions for their child(ren). And that each parent should spend as close to 50/50, equal time-sharing with the child(ren) as possible. The presumption can be overcome is the situation is such that joint custody and equal time-sharing would not serve the best interest of the child(ren).
The new legislation, House Bill 492 was initiated by National Parents Organization and sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Representatives Jason Petrie (R-Elkton) and Robby Mills (R-Henderson). The bill, was introduced February 10, 2017 in the Kentucky State House. The final version of the measure passed out of the state legislature with only two lawmakers voting against it.
New Law Amends Current Kentucky Custody Statute
The new law amends KRS 403.280, which lets the Court set a temporary custody and time-sharing arrangement between separating couples. The new law creates a rebuttable presumption that the best interest of the child(ren) will be best served by the parents sharing temporary joint custody and equal parenting time. Provided each parent files an affidavit requesting his or her portion of custody and time. The equal parenting time presumption applies even if the parents do not agree on a parenting schedule.
The new law, which goes into effect in July, requires judges to use joint legal custody as a starting point. Then consider factors like proximity of a child to their school and current home and likelihood a parent will allow a child to have “frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact” with the other parent.
The presumption does not apply if it creates a likelihood of abuse or neglect for the child(ren). A judge can still deny joint custody if one parent has committed domestic violence against the child or other parent. Critics of the measure argue that it unravels protections against abusive parents and makes it much harder for a judge to give one parent more time with children than the other.
Kentucky First To Support Equal Custody For Both Parents
Ours is the first state in the country to create a “legal presumption” for joint custody in divorce proceedings. Kentucky is the only state in the country to pass the legal presumption language into law. Though more than 25 states have considered similar legislation this year.
Supporters say that joint custody encourages a more stable upbringing of children. Matt Hale, chair of the National Parents Organization in Kentucky, says that current law deprives children of meaningful relationships with their parents. “Family courts were awarding one parent primary custody and basically all of the parenting time except every other weekend and Wednesday — excluding an otherwise fit parent, basically relegating them to being a visitor in the child’s life,” Hale said. The National Parents Organization used to be called Fathers and Families — a fathers’ rights group that advocated for equal rights for fathers in custody proceedings.
Mary Savage, general counsel of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, argues against the new law. Savage claims there are several instances in which an abusive parent could be granted joint custody under the new law. For example, if a domestic violence order was never filed or granted at the time of the custody proceeding, or if a violent act was committed against someone besides their spouse or child. Savage says the measure takes away discretion from judges tasked with determining a child’s best interest. “These type of laws are problematic because they take that careful screening that a judge is going to give to each individual family and each individual child that’s involved, they take that out of the judge’s hands,” Savage says.
Default Now Equal Custody & Visitation In Kentucky
This modification of KRS 403.280, drastically changes the landscape for separating couples in the State of Kentucky. The law creates a “presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child.” With the default presumption being joint custody and equal visitation, both parents now have equal footing when it comes to decision about their child(ren) and time spent with them.
It is important to note that this change to Kentucky Law does not affect already decided divorces or custody issues. If you are separating or divorcing it is important to know how the legal landscape has and continues to change. If you have questions about how your separation or divorce will affect your rights to your children contact us at Hurst & Hurst to discuss your situation in detail with an experienced and educated family law attorney.
If your custody case has already been decided under old law and you want to find out if this change will help you see your child(ren) more call us at (859) 209-2101 to discuss your options.