Last spring. Gov. Matt Bevin signed a law that made Kentucky one of the first states to require each divorce hearing to start with the presumption of 50-50 co-parenting.
One poll found 58 percent of Kentucky respondents in favor of the new law while only 10 percent opposed it (the rest were undecided).
A little history
For many years, women had very few rights. In the rare case of divorce, the children often went with their father. As more couples divorced in the 1960s and 1970s, the equation flipped and judges were likely to determine the children were better off with their mother as the primary caregiver, relegating the fathers to weekend visitations and providing child support.
As women’s place in the workforce became more ubiquitous, fathers began agitating for their right to co-parent. This led many states to change from a mother-centric view to one in which the judge was to determine the custody situation that is in the best interest of the child.
More recently, as research found that children with equal access to both parents had a better chance to succeed, lawmakers and the judiciary have come around to a co-parenting model in which the baseline is a 50-50 split of time between the parents.
The model in effect
The Kentucky law may start with the presumption of a 50-50 split in parenting, but the judge can make adjustments depending on:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child if the child is old enough
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The motivation of the adults for parenting and their current involvement
- The physical and mental health of the parents, along with any previous incidents of domestic violence or abuse
- The cooperation between the parents
- The child’s proximity to home, extended family, school and community
While critics say the law rolls back protections against abuse and takes discretion away from judges, proponents say the law addresses those who are otherwise fit to parent and changes a practice that deprives the child of one parent.
Divorce is an emotional event and child custody involves a changing set of laws. If you find yourself in a child custody dispute, seek out the advice of a qualified, experienced attorney.