A lot of fathers worry that, in a divorce, they’ll be denied equal custody of their children. They worry that old presumptions about the roles of men and women in childcare and attitudes about the importance of mothers versus fathers to their children will sway a judge to give their children’s mother primary custody.
Well, shared parenting is actually the norm in Kentucky now — by law. Kentucky was the first state in the nation to make joint custody of the children the “default” position in a divorce. In 2018, a new law created a legal presumption that equal parenting time and joint custody was automatically in the best interests of the child, absent evidence of abuse or domestic violence.
That law was in response to advocacy on behalf of parents who felt that they were being deprived of meaningful relationships with their children. Fathers, in particular, tended to be given just alternating weekends and one night a week for visitation with their children.
Does that mean that a judge is 100% bound to give you equal parenting time in your divorce? No, not exactly. The presumption that shared parenting is best is rebuttable. Given enough evidence that shared parenting isn’t actually in a child’s best interest for some reason or simply isn’t practical, a judge can order something different.
The best way for divorcing parents to end up with a parenting agreement and custody schedule that suits their needs and minimizes the problems their children will face is through negotiation. It’s important to start the process early — but it’s also important for fathers to realize that they are negotiating from a position of strength due to the law.