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Kentucky Family Law on Domestic Violence

Violent acts, or the threat of violence acts, committed between family or household members qualify as acts of domestic violence in most states. Domestic violence is a crime in Kentucky and can have a huge impact on a couple's rights under Kentucky's family law statutes. For example, domestic violence incidents can impact a couple's divorce proceedings as well as child custody arrangements. This article outlines Kentucky's domestic violence law and provides examples of how domestic violence can interact with family law in Kentucky.

Kentucky's Domestic Violence Laws

Code Section

Kentucky Revised Statutes section 403.720: Domestic Violence

What's Domestic Violence?

In Kentucky, "domestic violence and abuse" is defined as physical injury, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault between "family members" or "members of an unmarried couple."

Definition of "Family Members"


In the domestic violence statute, a "family member" can only be a spouse, former spouse, grandparent, child, stepchild, or any other person living in the same household as a child if the child is the alleged victim.

Definition of "Members of an Unmarried Couple"


A "member of an unmarried couple" means each member of an unmarried couple that allegedly has a child in common, any children of that couple, or a member of an unmarried couple who are living together (or who formally lived together).

Domestic Violence Protection Orders During Divorce

Domestic violence victims can apply for emergency protective orders in Kentucky. If the court determines that the allegations of domestic violence indicate the presence of an immediate and present danger of domestic violence and abuse, then the court will order an emergency protective order. These orders vary in their specifics, but generally restrain the abuser from contacting the petitioner, going within a specified distance of the petitioner or the petitioner's minor children, and often directs the abuser to vacate the shared residence. For more information see section 403.740.

Child Custody and Domestic Violence

When a family court is required to determine a child custody arrangement following a couples' divorce, the court will determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. While making this determination, the court considers several factors (see section 403.270(2)). If domestic violence and abuse is alleged, the court will determine the extent that the domestic violence has affected the child and the child's relationship to both parents. Additionally, if a parent abandoned the family residence due to physical abuse (or the threat of harm), the court won't consider this abandonment when determining custody of the couple's children.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Kentucky's family laws on domestic violence contact a local family law lawyer or criminal defense attorney.

If you or someone you know is a domestic violence survivor there is help available to you. During an emergency dial 911 and when you're safe contact the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.

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