New Kentucky law encourages equal parenting time after divorce

FRANKFORT, KY — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a bill that encourages joint custody and equal parenting time in custody cases after a divorce or separation.

The governor signed House Bill 528 into law on April 26. It will take effect in July.

Under the law, judges must begin each custody case with the presumption that joint custody and equally-shared parenting time are best for the children. Judges can then consider other factors, such as whether each parent has a history of domestic violence, before deciding whether joint custody is appropriate.

“What this law does is it mandates that when a case begins — a time-sharing case or custody case — that I start with what’s best for these children is a 50/50 time-sharing schedule with the parents. Then, I take the facts and apply them from there,” explained McCracken County Family Court Judge Deanna Henschel.

Republican state Rep. Jason Petrie of Elkton, one of the sponsors of the bill, said he hopes it will help reduce conflict.

“Parties are not fighting as much on that first hearing, given that there is a presumption that there is shared custody and equal parenting time,” Petrie said.

Henschel said the law won’t have too much of an impact on her approach.

“Here in McCracken County, I don’t think this law is going to make, it’s not going to have a huge effect here,” she said. “When a family comes before me, I don’t automatically presume that the woman should be the primary parent or the man should be the primary parent. Just like in domestic violence cases, I can’t assume that the woman is the victim. Every case comes to court with a clean slate.”

But Henschel said the law could impact other places more.

“I think that’s going to be different from county to county. Some judges, it will be a big change to go, because they still do the standard visitation every other weekend for most of their cases,” said Henschel.

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