No parent likes to think about how their relationship with their child will be impacted after a divorce. When it comes to divorce, most parents are most concerned about how they will split custody with their former spouse and how much time they will be missing out on with their children. Often, fear creeps in that if you’re divorce becomes bitter, you might even lose custody of your child.

However, in 2018, Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation that automatically awards divorcing couples joint custody of their children. An exception to that is when one parent has committed domestic violence against the child or their partner. This means that children will split time nearly equally living with each parent unless for some reason a judge finds the child’s best interests will be better served with another custody arrangement. Even when one parent is awarded sole custody, unless the other parent is shown to be unfit, they likely will receive a generous visitation schedule, including sleepovers.

Physical custody vs. legal custody

When a divorcing couple negotiates child custody, they plan for the two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody gives a parent the authority to decide the following:

  • where the child will go to school
  • what religious tradition the child will be raised in
  • what type of medical care a child will receive

Physical custody determines where the child will reside most of the time.

Both legal and physical custody can be shared jointly, meaning both parents are involved in legal decisions and having the child regularly staying with them.

Parenting plans

Because more and more couples have joint custody, they often are directed to develop a parenting plan. A parenting plan addresses not only physical and legal custody, but who will be covering what medical costs for the child, how child care costs will be split, who will claim the child as a dependent on their taxes and how extracurricular costs will be split. It also will establish a schedule for when the child will be with each parent, which can include stipulations for school breaks and holidays.

Many researchers have concluded that children do better when both parents are a part of their life after a divorce. That’s why parents sharing joint custody is becoming more common.