Custody can be a very confusing term. Most people believe child custody only refers to who a child lives with. In fact, the term “primary residential parent” best refers to where a child lives. Child custody actually describes the parent’s decision-making authority in regards to their child’s upbringing. There are four main types of child custody: (i) joint custody, (ii) sole custody, (iii) shared custody, and (iv) split custody.
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In joint custody, each parent has full legal decision-making authority over the child, but they share full decision-making authority with one another. The parents frequently enjoy flexible time sharing arrangements, while designating one parent to be the primary residential parent of the child. Parents do not always agree on important decisions. For disagreements, the courts have the power to “break the tie” when joint custodians cannot agree in child custody decisions. To break the tie the court will consider the best interests of the child in making the final decision.
In sole custody, only one parent has full decision-making authority in the child custody decisions. The parent with sole child custody ends up with full parenting rights and responsibilities, while the other parent has only visitation rights.
In shared child custody, both parents have decision-making authority over the child subject to agreed upon limitations or court orders. Time sharing is not necessarily flexible and frequently mirrors a pattern where the child may live with one parent during the week and reside with the other on alternate weekends.
In split child custody, each parent has sole child custody and decision-making authority while the child resides with him or her, and only visitation when the child resides with the other parent.
Best Interests of the Child
- The court determines child custody and will break the tie in disputes in accordance with the best interests of the child, which includes:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The wishes of the child;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- The child’s adjustment to his home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- Information, records, and evidence of domestic violence;
- The extent the child has been cared for, nurtured, and supported;
- The intent of the parents in child placement; and
- The circumstances under which the child was placed in the custody of a custodian, including whether the parent now seeking child custody was previously prevented from doing so as a result of domestic violence and whether the child was placed with a custodian to allow the parent to seek employment, work, or attend school.