All states require that custody decisions be made according to a child's best interests. Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that specifically itemizes factors judges should consider, including the emotional and physical health of each parent, the child's relationship with each parent, and any history of domestic violence. To sever visitation rights, you must demonstrate that doing so is in the child's best interests.
If a father was unmarried to the child's mother at the time of the child's birth, Kentucky law states that he is not the child's legal father. He has no rights to visitation and the mother may deny visitation until paternity is established. Mothers should not deny visitation to legal fathers until a judge issues an order severing visitation rights, however. Denying visitation when there is a custody order in place authorizing visitation may constitute contempt.
Visitation Modification Petition
To modify an existing visitation order, you must petition for a visitation modification. Kentucky family courts have jurisdiction over custody cases, and you should file your petition in the same court in which the original custody order was issued. Complete the petition, then pay the filing fee and return it to the clerk. You must serve the father with a copy of the petition. In most counties, the clerk will provide you with a service of process form to have the sheriff serve the father, but in some counties you must serve the father yourself. The clerk will schedule the petition for a hearing; the hearing is typically scheduled within 60 days of the filing.
Prior to the hearing, the judge may order that you and your child's father attend mediation or may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child's best interests. If mediation fails, there will be a hearing. Kentucky law only permits visitation modifications if there has been a change in the child's circumstances, and you must demonstrate such change. Material changes might include a newly discovered addiction or abuse, one parent's move or a change in the parent's mental health. You must also demonstrate why the requested change is in your child's best interests.
Evidence and Witnesses
You may call witnesses and submit evidence at the hearing. If a person has witnessed, for example, your ex abusing your child, they may be a good witness. You should also submit any evidence indicating that your ex is unfit or that there has been a substantial change in his parenting competence. Emails, text messages, online postings, arrest records and similar documentation is admissible in Kentucky.
After hearing evidence from each side, the judge will issue an order. If visitation is revoked, it may be temporarily revoked. The judge may add provisions allowing the father to seek visitation again if he, for example, gets counseling, changes his living arrangements or goes to drug rehabilitation. It is very rare for visitation to be permanently revoked the first time a custodial parent requests it. The judge may also order supervised visitation during which the father may see the child while being monitored by a court-appointed neutral third party. This ensures that the child is safe while preserving her relationship with her father.
- Kentucky Legislature: Kentucky Revised Statutes 403.270 - 403.350
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families: The Rights of Unmarried Fathers
- The Scientific Basis of Child Custody Decisions; Robert Galatzer-Levy
- Dadsdivorce.com: Child Visitation Modification
- Cases and Materials on Family Law; Judith C. Areen
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