I've spoken on the conjoined topics of shared parenting and child custody in Kentucky in the past, but as this is a frequently misunderstood matter, it is important to revisit the issues from time to time. By statute, rule and case law, the minimum allocation of shared parenting time in a child custody case is very narrowly defined. Under our Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, the minimum is every other weekend, with an overnight to occur midweek. In the Louisville area, we often find an increasing willingness on the part of family court judges to allocate time on a far more equal basis (provided that there is a suitable home environment in each). Further, due to the circumstances of modern life, courts are often willing to make allowances due to the unusual work schedule needs of emergency service personnel, people working in health care and those who find themselves traveling as a requirement of employment.
In divorces, a frequent area of concern in the courts in Louisville is what happens with regard to health insurance. A person previously covered under an employment plan offered by their spouse's employer generally comes to find that the 18 month continuation of COBRA benefits is so costly as to be impossible to obtain. Compounding the difficulties for the older divorce litigant is the problem of insurance underwriting on policies for those who are sailing headlong through middle age - they may not qualify for coverage, and even if they do, the product that is offered is expensive and inadequate for the needs of the litigant. When this occurs, a regular market based policy solution (if available at all) is as financially out of reach as the COBRA benefit, and has far reaching impacts on issues of spousal maintenance.
Kentucky has never been an easy place to try and maintain a domestic partnership; ordinary family law concerns have long been subordinate to the intrusions of culture war issues from the political realm. In examining Kentucky law on domestic partnerships, in my opinion, our statutes have been drawn to clearly define marriage as a heteronormative institution - as a matter of official governmental policy, we deny recognition of same sex unions as well as the decrees of other states with regard to those unions. Compounding this, Section 233A our Constitution makes it impossible to unwind those statutes by a vote of the majority of the legislature as it definitively prohibits any recognition as a matter of organic law that cannot be undone by a vote of the General Assembly.
Over the years, I've noticed that couples under great emotional stress experience problems in their careers in the months prior to filing for divorce. This manifests itself in tardiness, absenteeism, poor customer or employee relations, inattentiveness to duty, excessive personal calls and a general sense of malaise on the job. Conversely, once the divorce action is filed and proceedings are under way, many of those problems seem to melt away - there seems to be a renewed focus on personal development and attention to detail is restored. In fact, most employers in the Louisville area are more than willing to cooperate with the employee in the scheduling of appointments with court, attorney appointments, counseling and other expert employments. While my experience on this issue is anecdotal in nature, it is widespread enough to be seen as a trend for good reason - the organization finds itself with a better, less distracted employee.
One critical item rarely considered by those who are entering the divorce process is the number of legal fields which a family lawyer must have better than passing familiarity on while advising the client and litigating the case. Here in Louisville (and in Kentucky in general), we are fortunate in that our family courts grant a fair amount of latitude in arguments and don't require skilled counsel to present panels of experts on each item of valuation or each ramification of differing allocation of parenting time. As a result of this latitude, however, we must be alert to bedrock principles of law, the vagaries of local economics,local educational performance issues, and in our analyses we should know our limitations and be willing to bring in outside help and testimony if needed.
Back in February and again in April, I warned people who are in a divorce or other family law dispute about being cautious about the information shared over social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and implored restraint on the texts they post. All too frequently, I wind up either using them against a litigant or defending against their use against my clients, and judges in Louisville are more than willing to base portions of their rulings on statements made over media designed to broadcast to the public.
A divorce is rarely a spur-of-the-moment event. Over the months prior to the actual filing, there is usually a period of stagnation, because the decisions to be made are difficult, costly and have a huge impact on the lives of the litigants. Allocations of parenting time, schooling decisions, child support, alimony/spousal maintenance and the division of hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of assets and debts all have to be reckoned with, all while the couple is under severe emotional stress. At the same time, the couple may also be attempting some actions to salvage the relationship.
Any time a family law dispute arises (be it divorce, custody or some post-decree modification), it leads to significant stress that impacts all facets of one's life with relation to wealth, asset management, debt acquisition, routine household tasks and productivity. This stress can be particularly acute in the area of employment; statistical studies of large-scale employers reflect 50-75% drops in productivity by the worker in such an action, as well as a "ripple effect" among the co-workers and line managers who struggle to adjust and cover for the productivity loss.