New law makes it easier for Kentucky families to split custody

Posted at 4:30 AM, Aug 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-28 07:51:27-04

When his son, Lucas, was born in 2014, William Chen created a Facebook page to capture the most special moments of his child's life -- everything from ultrasounds to smiling baby pictures to tiny Lucas posing in front of a monster truck.

"He's a bundle of joy," Chen said. "He's literally my mini-me."

When Chen and Lucas's mother got divorced, she was awarded custody of their son and Chen's posts on the page became less frequent. It wasn't until April 12 that Kentucky parents like Chen received a new way to fight for equal time with their children.

House Bill 492, signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, created a presumption of joint -- rather than singular -- custody when couples with children divorce. Children who risk being abused or neglected by one parent will still be assigned just one caretaker, but other divorced couples will automatically split their custodial arrangement 50-50.

"This new law is going to help a lot of families that want to be in their children's life and don't have to fight for it," Chen said. He won shared custody of his son July 20.

According to Matt Hale, chairman of the Kentucky chapter of the National Parents Organization, the new law isn't just beneficial for parents like Chen -- it helps children, too.

"Research says children are less likely to do drugs or have premarital sex, and they're better (prepared) to have good outcomes," he said.

Hale added he hopes Ohio will pass a similar law to help families affected by divorce.

"There was a lot of heartache and a lot of families that suffered before the new law," he said. "Before that, parents had to fight each other to win or possibly lose their children. That led to a lot of legal bills and a lot of children not getting to see their parents."