Before parents can address the issues the issues of child custody or visitation of their minor children, there must be a formally filed Petition for Custody, a divorce, or a paternity action filed the the family court. If the parents are married, either the mother or the father's family law attorney can file an action requesting a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment or file the petition for custody. If the parents are unmarried, either the mothers' or the fathers' family law lawyer can file an action to establish the parental relationship or file the petition for custody and support of minor children. What can I do? You can assist tremendously in this necessary family law process. You can help keep the cost to a minimum of your family law matter by providing basic, vital information. 1) Your Story. One to two pages, double space, 12 point font. If correct, briefly describe how you have been the primary care giver. Also briefly point out any truthful inappropriate behavior by the opposing party. Reflect on the basic aspects of being a parent: Scholastic (educational) Extra curricular (sports, music, ballet, amusement parks, museums) Medical (doctor visits) Home life, living environment (home accommodations) Religious affiliation 2) Future Custody Plan. Please provide us with one to two pages clarifying your custody goals. Focus on what is in the best interest of the children. Describe how you would like to exercise custody of your child or children. Detail the visitation schedule. Have a calendar and a map handy. Be realistic, fair, and reasonable. The courts want both parents involved in the raising, loving and caring of children. Keep in mind, children are innocent and are our nations future citizens. Children are depending on us for their well being. Remember, family law courts like to keep the status quo unless their is information provided that would necessitate an adjustment to a visitation schedule. 3) Evidence. Evidence in family law matters eventually become exhibits. Exhibits are simply included in an organized fashion into any package of court documents your family law attorney files on your behalf. When you formally request something, such as child custody or child support orders, in court, it must be filed formally on your behalf by your family law attorney. This means simply attain any document that proves anything you stated or requested in items #1 - #3 above. For example, If you stated in your story you have been the parent that drove your child to school, get a copy of the child/parent sign in sheet. If you said your spouse has been arrested for drugs, get a copy of the arrest warrant. If you stated that the other parent removed money from the family joint checking account, get a copy of the bank statement reflecting the removal of funds. If you said you only make a certain amount of money in the Income and Expense Declaration, get a copy of your pay stub. If you stated in your future custody plan that you have a new two bedroom home or apartment furnished as if approved by inspectors from Walt Disney, provide a photograph of the children's rooms. If you stated in the future custody plan that you will be living one mile from the children's school, get a copy of the lease, or purchase contract showing your address along with a Map Quest.com printoutreflecting that you are in fact living one mile from the children's school. Keep in mind one of the best ways to ensure you will be successful in protecting your children is to be accurate, prepared, and organized with the necessary proof, i.e. evidence! Can I get joint custody of my children? Kentucky has a joint custody law that encourages judges to award joint legal custody to parents. This means that both parents have a right to make decisions concerning their children such as education, medical treatment and religious training. The court also has the power to award physical custody to one or both parents. Physical custody determines where the child actually lives, and it is most common for the children to spend most of their time with one parent. The parent who does not have primary physical custody is usually granted secondary physical custody or visitation rights. It is most common for the non-custodial parent to have specified periods of time consisting of alternating weekends, one evening per night and one-half of the children's school vacations. In some cases, the parents agree to reasonable secondary physical custody or visitation rights, which means that the parents agree on the times when the non-custodial parent will have the children. If I have custody of our children, can I relocate with them? In some cases, a judge will issue orders preventing either parent from changing the residence of the children from a specified geographical area. Locally, it is not uncommon for a judge to restrain the parents from moving the residence of the children from the general geographic area. Such orders are common where both parents have a considerable amount of time with the children, and removing them from the metropolitan area would be disruptive to the children, and their development. Over the last ten years, courts in KY have been dealing with the right of a custodial parent to move with the children to another metropolitan area or out of state. The Kentucky Supreme Court recently decided a case that settled this controversy. Under the new rule, even a custodial parent must request a court order before relocating and denying the other parent access to the children.
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