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When a child's custodial parent dies

If a Kentucky parent who has primary physical custody of a child dies, the other parent may apply for custody. If that parent is a father, paternity must have been established with either the father's name on the birth certificate or by an acknowledgment of paternity form signed by the father and filed with the court. If neither of these are in place, the father may have to establish paternity before beginning the process of seeking custody.

Other family members might also be interested in getting custody. If there are not any family members who can become the child's guardian, a family friend might become guardian. A judge will take the relationship between the individual and the child into account as well as whether any family members have come forward. Ultimately, the court makes a decision that is in the child's best interests.

If there is no one who can become the child's guardian, the child will enter the foster system. While family members may go to court to get visitation rights, they will not have any say in the child's placement.

Parents who are divorcing and who have not discussed who they would prefer to be guardian of their children in the event of their own deaths might want to talk about this. Parents, family members or family friends of a child whose custodial parent has died may want to speak to an attorney about their options and how they should go about seeking custody. If multiple family members want custody and they are unable to settle this among themselves, a judge will choose the alternative that appears to be in the best interests of the child.

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