Some old clichés are true. For example, you “marry the whole family” after the wedding. Many stepparents will confirm this idea, as they are suddenly thrust into parenting roles after getting married.
Blood is not always thicker than water. The relationship between a child and their stepparent can be just as genuine as any parent/child relationship. This fact causes a problem in a divorce. The stepparent and the child want to continue their relationship, but there is no legal bond to keep them together.
Each state handles stepparent custody and visitation differently. Here is a broad overview of Kentucky’s approach.
Who Gets Child Custody in Kentucky?
Biological parents are given preference when it comes to child custody decisions. This means that if two parents are in a custody battle, the court will assume that it is in the child's best interest to maintain a relationship with their biological parent.
The court will take into consideration other factors such as the stability of each parent's home, any past abuse or neglect, and the individual needs of the child before making a final decision. However, biological parents are still given priority when it comes down to who gets primary custody.
This is because judges recognize that children have an inherent right to a relationship with both of their parents, and by placing priority on the biological parent they are ensuring that this right is upheld.
Gaining Visitation as a Non-Parent
For a stepparent to gain visitation in Kentucky, they must petition the court. This is true for any third-party visitation, including grandparents.
A successful petition is not easy. The stepparent must demonstrate that establishing a relationship between themselves and the child would be in the child's best interest.
- Any prior abuse or neglect from either parent
- How long the stepparent has been involved in the child's life
- The overall stability of both homes will be taken into consideration before making a decision
- Examples of how the relationship directly benefits the child, improving their education, healthcare, etc.
If the child is in an otherwise stable, healthy environment, the stepparent must prove the importance of their relationship with the child. This may require the child’s involvement, allowing them to explain that they want the stepparent in their life.
No matter the situation, when you are petitioning the court, you should seek the services of a good attorney. They can help you build your case and prove your claims.
Obstacles to Stepparent Visitation
- The biological parent objects to visitation rights being granted.
- The child expresses strong opposition to having a relationship with their stepparent.
- The stepparent does not take an active role in their partner's parenting duties.
- The stepparent is deemed unfit due to criminal activity or substance abuse issues.
- There is evidence that visitation would be detrimental to the child's well-being and safety.
If you are reading this article, and you care enough to stay involved, many of these issues probably don’t apply to you. However, you could still face opposition from the biological parent. In that case, you must secure legal counsel.
Options for Visitation Outside of Court
People always have the right to create their own divorce agreements. Doing so is a collaborative process between the biological parent and the stepparent. If both parties are amenable to creating a plan, they can work together to develop an agreement that best suits the needs of their family.
When creating a visitation plan, both parent and the stepparent must consider:
- Any of the child’s special healthcare needs.
- When and where visits should take place and how often.
- Who is responsible for transporting the child during visits.
- The child's age and preferences as to who they want to spend time with and when.
- How to handle communication regarding any changes or issues that arise during visits.
- Any special considerations such as holidays or special events that you must include in the plan.
Mediation will help create this plan. A mediator who is trained in both law and conflict resolution works with the couple, helping them reach an agreement that both parties can accept.
Law Office of Pamela C. Bratcher can help with all forms of third-party child custody and visitation. To set up time with our team, call our office at (270) 977-8910 or fill out our online contact form.