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Child Custody: How "Best Interests" Of Child Are Determined

When making decisions regarding child custody, courts in Kentucky and nationwide are obligated to find a solution that is in the child's best interests.

The court must make a decision that promotes the child's happiness, physical and mental health, emotional development and safety. The parent's preference does not take priority over what is the best outcome for the child.

Best interests of the child can be difficult to define, but these factors that are used in most child custody decisions:

  • Child's wishes (if he or she is old enough to express a reasonable preference)
  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • If a child has special needs, how each parent takes care of those needs
  • Religion and/or cultural considerations
  • Need for a stable home environment
  • Other children whose custody is relevant to this child's custody arrangement
  • Support and opportunity for interaction with members of extended family of either parent
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests
  • Adjustment to school and community
  • Age and sex of child
  • Pattern of domestic violence in the home; under Kentucky law, if domestic violence and abuse is alleged, the court shall determine the extent to which the domestic violence and abuse has affected the child and the child's relationship to both parents
  • Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse
  • Information, records and evidence of parental drug, alcohol or child/sex abuse

Under Kentucky law, the abandonment of the family home by a spouse is not taken into consideration when that spouse was physically harmed or was threatened with physical harm by the other spouse.

In Kentucky, the court may grant joint custody to the child's parents, if it is in the best interest of the child.


1. "Focusing On The Best Interests Of The Child," FindLaw 2. Custodial Issues, Best Interests Of Child Shall Determine, Kentucky Revised Statutes, 403.270 

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