Grandparents Rights in Kentucky

What rights do grandparents have with regard to their grandchildren?  That area of my practice has changed a good deal since I began.  As it currently stands, KRS 405.021 makes the basic provision of Grandparents Rights in Kentucky:

  • (1)  The Circuit Court may grant reasonable visitation rights to either the paternal or maternal grandparents of a child and issue any necessary orders to enforce the decree if it determines that it is in the best interest of the child to do so. Once a grandparent has been granted visitation rights under this subsection, those rights shall not be adversely affected by the termination of parental rights belonging to the grandparent’s son or daughter, who is the father or mother of the child visited by the grandparent, unless the Circuit Court determines that it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
  • (2)  The action shall be brought in Circuit Court in the county in which the child resides.
  • (3)  The Circuit Court may grant noncustodial parental visitation rights to the grandparent of a child if the parent of the child who is the son or daughter of the grandparent is deceased and the grandparent has assumed the financial obligation of child support owed by the deceased parent, unless the court determines that the visitation is not in the best interest of the child. If visitation is not granted, the grandparent shall not be responsible for child support.

What does the Statute, alone, mean?  First, that Kentucky Family Court may grant “reasonable visitation rights” to grandparents and enforce those rights.  However, if the parental rights have been terminated before a grandparent establishes “reasonable visitation rights”, then Family Court has no authority to award “reasonable visitation rights” to a grandparent.  If “reasonable visitation rights” are established, then there is a termination of parental rights, the termination does not affect the grandparent.

Section (3) exists to protect the grandparent who steps in and cares for a grandchild after their parent dies.

The standard for awarding “reasonable visitation rights” is the best interests of the grandchild.  Most assume that “best interests” is a low standard, but if biological parents object, then it becomes difficult to prove best interests.  Often an expert is needed to evaluate the family relationship.

As I mentioned in February, there are two other ways Grandparents can obtain a Court ordered relationship with their grandchildren.

Grandparents may become de facto custodians.  In Order to persuade a Court that one is a de facto custodian, the party (grandparent in this case) making the claim must demonstrate that they provide more than half of the financial support and temporal care (parenting time) for the child or children in question.  If the child is under three (3), then the care must have been continuous for six (6) or more months.  If the child is over the age of three (3), then the care must have been continuous for one (1) or more years.

Also, a Last Will and Testament may designate a Grandparent a Guardian of a child.  However, so long as one (1) parent survives, the Guardianship is very limited.  The law assigns to parents the status of custodian, which trumps any guardianship assigned by a Probate Court.

If you have questions about Grandparents Rights in Kentucky, please give me a call.  Also, please feel free to learn more at or or if you are not ready to talk.  Thanks for reading.