Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.
Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.
Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.

A de facto custodian’s role in a custody case

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | child custody, divorce | 0 comments

Some people act more like the child’s parents than the actual parents do. They may be grandparents, stepparents, relatives or nonrelatives who care for the child like their own.

Kentucky law considers any of them a possible “de facto custodian.” As the Latin phrase implies, the role entails being responsible for raising the child. But to be the child’s primary caregiver and financial supporter, a potential de facto custodian must first meet the state’s requirements.

Understanding the qualifications and other considerations

Upon establishing clear and compelling proof that a person has been protecting the child’s best interests, the person claiming they can be the child’s de facto custodian can qualify if:

  • The minor child, under the age of three, has lived with them for at least six months or more within the last two years
  • The minor child, three years old or older, has lived with them for at least a year or more
  • The Department for Community Based Services placed the child under their care

Once the judge deems a person qualified, the approved de facto custodian will have the same legal footing as the child’s biological parents. This position means that the de facto custodian may participate in the case and petition for custody.

However, potential de facto custodians must be mindful that the parents have preferential rights to care for their child. Unless proven otherwise that being with the parents places the child in imminent danger, the court errs on the parents fulfilling their parental obligations.

Upholding the child’s welfare above all

Courts take custody issues seriously, as evidenced by the extensive list of factors they take into account before making a decision. Determining a de facto custodian is no different. Those who want to pursue the role must also have a counsel looking out for them, so they can continue looking out for the child.


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Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.