Custody & Divorce

Although issues surrounding custody and divorce are often of paramount importance to victims of domestic violence, especially when attempting to flee an abusive relationship, such issues are highly complex and very fact-driven. If at all possible, victims should attempt to contact an attorney for advice on their own specific circumstances and needs. Contact information for the four legal services organizations that serve Kentucky is available HERE. These programs provide limited, no-cost, legal advice and representation to low-income clients in specific types of cases. Each program varies in the types of domestic violence cases they can provide representation for, and victims will need to contact the program in their area to see if they qualify for services. Each program may also have either a pro bono program, which may locate a private attorney who has agreed to do cases for free, or a list of attorneys who may take cases on a payment plan. For those who may be able to afford to hire a private attorney, contact information for three regional lawyer referral services can be found on our online resources page.

The following brief overview of Kentucky law is by no means intended to be used as legal advice or counsel, and should not be viewed as such. This general information is provided for educational and reference purposes only as a public service.

Chapter 403 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes contains the laws pertaining to dissolution (divorce), custody, visitation and child support

There is a six-month residency requirement (for one spouse only) for filing for dissolution in Kentucky. Kentucky has also adopted most of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, and thus, with some exceptions, in order for a Kentucky court to have jurisdiction over the custody of a child, the child must have resided here for at least six months. It is also possible to file for a Legal Separation, or an Annulment (for very short term marriages and upon very limited grounds) in Kentucky.

Information, records and evidence of domestic violence are relevant factors to be considered by the court when determining the best interests of the child in custody cases. The abandonment of the family residence by a custodial party shall not be considered (by the court as a relevant factor) where said party was physically harmed or was seriously threatened with physical harm by his or her spouse, when such harm or threat of harm was causally related to the abandonment. If domestic violence is alleged, the court will hold a hearing in order to consider how to arrange visitation so as not to endanger the child or the custodial parent.

In protective order actions, the court may grant temporary custody either in the Emergency Protective Order, the Domestic Violence Order, or both. 

Similarly, child support may be ordered after the long term hearing. In Kentucky, child support is calculated based on the income of both parents by utilizing a chart to be found in the statutes