Kentucky Court of Justice
Supreme Court of Kentucky adopts statewide rules for family law cases

Press Release Date:  Thursday, January 13, 2011  
Contact Information:  Jamie Ball
Public Information Officer
502-573-2350, x 50033

Links to Related Resources:
Family Court Rules of Procedure and Practice
Summary of Family Court Rules of Procedures and Practice

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- For the first time, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has adopted uniform rules for family law cases statewide, Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. and Deputy Chief Justice Mary C. Noble announced at a news conference today at the Kentucky Capitol.

The Family Court Rules of Procedure and Practice apply to all family law cases, which are handled by Family Court judges in 71 Kentucky counties and by circuit and district judges in the 49 other counties without a Family Court. Family law cases include such matters as divorce, termination of parental rights, domestic violence, child support, juvenile status offenses, adoption, and dependency, neglect or abuse.

The rules became effective Jan. 1, 2011, and will have a significant impact on the practice of family law in Kentucky.

Previously there were no statewide rules specifically for family law cases. Judges followed the Supreme Court Civil Rules and created local family law rules for their jurisdiction. The new rules are based on best practices in domestic and child welfare cases in Kentucky courts. They provide a uniform set of rules for judges, attorneys and parties to follow statewide to help ensure safety, permanency and well-being for children and families.

“These rules will change the way family law is practiced in Kentucky,” Chief Justice Minton said. “The many Kentucky citizens involved in family law proceedings – some of the most sensitive and difficult cases to come before our courts – will benefit from the dedication and vision of Justice Noble and all those who assisted with drafting these rules.”

Justice Noble headed the initiative to develop and recommend uniform rules as chair of the Supreme Court Civil Rules Committee. The Family Court Rules are a section of the civil rules.  

“These rules represent the ongoing efforts of the Court of Justice to implement the Family Court amendment to our Constitution, which established our Family Courts,” Justice Noble said. “As time passes, we grow closer to having a true statewide Family Court system. This is a developmental project we are mindful of and determined to achieve.”

The new family law rules were developed with input from stakeholders, including Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, Family Court judges, circuit and district judges, domestic relations commissioners, circuit court clerks, family law attorneys, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and community partners, including children’s advocacy groups.

The process began in May 2009, when the Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts jointly hosted a Civil Rules Conference to gather information from judges and domestic relations commissioners to assist with drafting the rules. The conference focused on identifying the best practices in rules for family law cases and developing these rules as the standard for all Kentucky courts. Approximately 80 justices, judges and domestic relations commissioners participated in the discussions. They covered the areas of divorce and property; domestic violence; paternity; status offenders (juveniles who commit noncriminal acts such as running away from home); dependency, neglect or abuse; adoption and termination of parental rights; and child custody, visitation and child support.

As a result of the conferences, six multidisciplinary subcommittees were formed to provide input and recommendations for drafting the new rules. The subcommittees were chaired by judges and included representation from the courts, social services, attorneys and other family law professionals.

The recommendations for the proposed rules was presented to the Supreme Court in April 2010 and published in the Kentucky Bar Association magazine, Bench & Bar, in May. All attorneys licensed to practice in Kentucky receive the magazine. Attorneys had the opportunity to provide input on the proposed rules at a hearing during the KBA Convention in June.

The proposed rules and feedback from the KBA Convention were presented to the Supreme Court in October 2010. The court voted in November to adopt the rules.

Domestic and Child Welfare Cases
Domestic and child welfare cases are handled by Family Court judges in the 71 Kentucky counties with a Family Court. In the 49 other counties, the cases are handled by circuit and district judges.

Supreme Court of Kentucky
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be “published,” which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.