Parental Rights in Kentucky

Kentucky Parental Rights News

Parental Rights State Legislation Update

March 31, 2021

Legislative sessions around the country are in full swing, and several parental rights bills are still in play. In Iowa, a bill to codify existing state Supreme Court precedent has passed the House and is heading to committee hearings in the Senate this week. In fact, by the time this newsletter reaches you, House File…

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Kentucky State Law and Parental Rights

At Risk

Kentucky does not have a state statute that explicitly defines and protects parental rights as fundamental rights.

Kentucky Rev. Stat. § 620.010 outlines recognized rights of children, and further recognized that "upon some occasions, in order to protect and preserve the rights and needs of children, it is necessary to remove a child from his or her parents."

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Kentucky Courts and Parental Rights

Lacks Strict Scrutiny

Kentucky courts have precedent in favor of parental rights, but lack a solid precedent of fundamental parental rights demanding strict scrutiny protection.

In Vibbert v. Vibbert, 144 SW 3d 242 (Ky. App. 2004) the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed that “a fit parent has a superior right, constitutionally, to all others in making decisions regarding raising of his or her children, including who may and may not visit them. A fit parent’s decision must be given deference by the Courts, and Courts considering the issue must presume that a fit parent’s decision is in the child’s best interest." This falls short of the strict scrutiny standard, however.

In Walker v. Blair,the Kentucky Supreme Court used the "best interest" standard rather than strict scrutiny.

In accordance with Troxel, we hold that a fit parent is presumed to act in the best interest of the child. A grandparent petitioning for child visitation contrary to the wishes of the child's parent can overcome this presumption of validity only with clear and convincing evidence that granting visitation to the grandparent is in the child's best interest. In determining the child's best interest, the trial court can turn to the factors in the modified best interest analysis, which we outline in this opinion.