Can Stepparents Earn Visitation Rights in Kentucky?

When discussing the strong bond between family members, people often say that blood is thicker than water. Many of us, however, know that isn’t always true. Stepparents often step up and take a strong parental role. Later, when facing a divorce, these great parents can be left out because they lack a blood relationship.

In this article, we look at how the law can treat stepparent relationships after a divorce. This information can help stepparents who want to retain some parental responsibility or advocate for visitation.

The Laws on Stepparent Visitation Rights in Kentucky

Typically, courts want to give biological parents primary custody. Stepparents don't have any automatic legal rights to visitation. They must plead to the court to earn this privilege.

To gain custody, a stepparent must convince the court that they have a strong bond with the child, and the child will benefit from continued contact.

Factors A Kentucky Court Considers When Determining Stepparent Visitation

First and foremost, the court gives the highest priority to the well-being and best interest of the child.

It considers factors such as:

  • The length of the relationship
  • Any history of abuse or neglect
  • The strength of the relationship
  • The child’s wishes, if they are mature enough
  • The stepparent’s involvement in the child's daily activities
  • The impact granting or denying visitation will have on the child
  • The stepparent’s ability and willingness to provide emotional support
  • The relationship between stepparent and natural parent’s relationship

Preparing to Plead for Visitation Rights

Going through a child visitation court case is challenging for any parent, but it can be especially stressful for a stepparent with no legal right to the child.

Preparation is one of the best ways to alleviate some of this turmoil. Start by gathering evidence that demonstrates the depth of the relationship between you and the child. This might include:

  • Photos
  • The child’s testimony
  • Testimony from witnesses such as close friends or family members
  • Records that demonstrate the time the child spends with the stepparent

Work closely with your attorney to make sure your evidence is strong. Your lawyer can also help you file the proper petitions, educate you on the courtroom process, and prepare you for testimony.

What if the Child’s Biological Parent is Unfit?

Sometimes, a stepparent needs more than just visitation. They need to fight for the child’s safety.

The process of rescuing a child from an unfit parent is complex. Kentucky courts generally prioritize a biological parent’s rights. It takes a lot of work to prove that the parent is a danger to the child.

In this situation, a stepparent must convince the court of two facts:

  1. The natural parent is dangerous.

Examples include:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Exposure to dangerous people or situations

Evidence includes:

  • Police reports
  • School reports
  • Medical records
  • Witness testimony
  1. Giving the stepparent custody is best for the child. There may be other options, such as uncles or grandparents, so building this second argument requires strong evidence.

Examples include:

  • A well-established daily routine that benefits the child
  • The stepparent’s ability to provide a healthy, stable environment for the child
  • The stepparent’s willingness to step up and fulfill the role of a full-time parent
  • A strong relationship with the child, where the child views the stepparent as a natural parent

Evidence includes:

  • Income statements
  • Background checks
  • Evidence of job stability
  • Home inspections conducted by a social worker

Law Office of Pamela C. Bratcher is here to help worthwhile parents like you receive the custody or visitation rights they deserve. To meet with our team, you can schedule time with us online or call our office at (270) 977-8910.