The Family Law Center
When Family Matters happen, call an experienced lawyer
Licensed in Kentucky and West Virginia

Child Custody

Child Custody and Visitation

The care and upbringing of children following divorce is often an ongoing source of conflict for divorcing parents. Custody must address both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody typically involves allocating parental rights and responsibilities regarding the day-to-day care and activities of the children. Legal custody typically involves allocating the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the child's upbringing and "day to day care and decision making.

Sometimes the parents agree to an arrangement; sometimes when parties/parents cannot agree, the court determines one for them. In the past, courts routinely gave mothers physical custody and gave fathers visitation rights. Today, the courts have begun to realize that sometimes it is in the best interests of the children to reside with the father and reverse the roles of the parents. In general, the courts favor joint ongoing child rearing responsibilities with the children residing where it is most practical and where they will flourish. The advice and assistance of a family law attorney can help parents to establish child custody and visitation agreements that focus on the interests of the children.

The court may grant joint custody to the child's parents, or to the child's parents and a de facto custodian, if it is in the best interest of the child. "De facto custodian" means a person who has been shown by clear and convincing evidence to have been the primary caregiver for, and financial supporter of, a child who has resided with the person for a period of six (6) months or more if the child is under three (3) years of age and for a period of one (1) year or more if the child is three (3) years of age or older or has been placed by the Department for Community Based Services.

The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and equal consideration shall be given to each parent and to any de facto custodian. The court shall consider all relevant factors including:

Child Support

Parents must financially support their children. That obligation usually lasts until the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21 years old depending on state law) or becomes self-supporting. An order for child support may be entered during or after a divorce, and either parent may be ordered to pay support depending upon how custody is arranged. In most states, an unmarried mother may also file a petition for child support in family court, and an order for support will be entered once paternity has been established.

A parent who fails to remain current on his or her child support obligations faces significant penalties. Every state has a child support enforcement office that works with the family court to suspend professional or business licenses, take away driver and recreational licenses, require payment of future owed sums in advance, or place non-paying parents in jail when child support obligations are overdue. Because of the state specific requirements involved in child support, parents can benefit from the advice and involvement of a family law attorney at Angotti & Straface in Morgantown, West Virginia when child support issues arise.

In Kentucky, child support may be based upon a pretrial agreement between the parents. The court will probably award the support in the agreement if it determines that the agreement is reasonable. If the parents have not reached an agreement, the court orders support based on the Kentucky's child support guidelines.

The child support amount based on the guidelines is presumed correct. A court can order a different amount, but must make a finding stating its reasons. Examples include extraordinary medical expenses of a child or parent, or when the parents' combined income exceeds amounts listed in the guidelines.

You need to show a material or substantial change in circumstances to modify a child support order. A change is presumed to be material if the new guidelines amount differs by at least 15 percent. Examples of other changes that could affect child support include a change in a parent's income or employee benefits or a change in the child's needs, such as education or health expenses.