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Child custody in a non-divorce setting

Divorce is not the only source of Kentucky child custody disputes. Unmarried parents, grandparents, other relatives or even friends might have reasons to apply for visitation privileges or physical custody of a child.

For unmarried parents, they will have a chance to discuss the terms of custody between themselves and reach an agreement out of court. If they cannot overcome their differences, then a family court will need to decide the matter. Typically, an unwed mother is given sole physical custody of her child, and a father must take legal action to establish his rights. Unless the mother can be shown to be an unfit parent, a father would generally have no ability to achieve sole custody, but he might gain visitation rights or shared custody.

Grandparents also have a legal right to see their grandchildren. If a custodial parent is preventing access, a grandparent could petition a court to grant visitation. Other situations sometimes demand that a grandparent ask for custody if a parent is missing or unable to properly care for a child.

Other people who might seek physical custody are aunts, uncles, or unrelated friends. In these cases, the court will want to review details about the person's relationship with the child and the whereabouts or status of the biological parents.

In these types of cases, family courts consider carefully who is the primary caretaker and focus on the best interests of the child. A person who is interested in obtaining physical custody could consult an attorney about the laws that guide these decisions.

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