New Jefferson Family Court Term holds first forum of 2015

Yesterday, on February 25, 2015, the first Family Court Forum of the year was held from 4 to 6pm in the jury pool assembly hall in downtown Louisville.

As a follow up to our post before the election, here is the rundown of the current family court judges in Jefferson County (* - denotes new family court judge):

  1. Hon. Angela Johnson*
  2. Hon. Hugh Smith Haynie
  3. Hon. Deborah Deweese*
  4. Hon. Dolly Wisman Berry
  5. Hon. Tara Hagerty*
  6. Hon. Christine Ward*
  7. Hon. Denise Brown*
  8. Hon. Deana "Dee" McDonald*
  9. Hon. Stephen M. George
  10. Hon. Paula Sherlock

Judge Sherlock is the chief judge for this year's term of judges. She opened the forum and each judge made individual remarks about the first eight (8) weeks of the year from their judicial perspective. Judge George provided a legislative update, including the dating violence bill. Representatives from the family court clerk's office were present to answer questions, and attorney Rexena Napier provided an update as chair of the Louisville Bar Association family law section.


Get to Know Your Candidates for Jefferson Family Court

With the election just over a week away, tune in to Louisville Metro TV (Channel 25 on TWC or channel 99 on Uverse) at any of the following times to hear the views of the various judicial candidates (who will fill the six open seats in family court) as they discuss domestic violence and related issues at a local forum:

  • Saturday, 11/1 at 10pm
  • Monday, 11/3 at 9:30am

For more information regarding Louisville Metro TV, visit

How are new divorce and custody cases assigned a Judge and division in Jefferson Family Court?

With the November election just around the corner, many people in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky, are probably unaware of how a new divorce or custody case being filed with the family court clerk is assigned a division (and its corresponding Judge).

Jefferson Family Court consists of ten (10) divisions, each with its own sitting Judge:

Jefferson Family Court Division # Judge Alphabet
*One (1)* *Hon. Joan L. Byer* A-Bri
Two (2) Hon. Hugh Smith Haynie Brj-Cra
*Three (3)* *Hon. Patricia Walker Fitzgerald* Frankl-Hec
Four (4) Hon. Dolly Wisman Berry Trp-Z
*Five (5)* *Hon. Eleanore M. Garber* Sf-Tro
*Six (6)* *Hon. Jerry J. Bowles* Meb-Pic
*Seven (7)* *Hon. Joseph W. O'Reilly* Pid-Se
*Eight (8)* *Hon. Donna L. Delahanty* Crb-Frank
Nine (9) Hon. Stephen M. George Kinh-Mea
Ten (10) Hon. Paula F. Sherlock Hed-King
* - Denotes a division with a departing Judge and contested election in November

The "Alphabet" column in the table above is important above as it specifies how cases are assigned to certain divisions. When the clerk receives a new divorce, legal separation, or custody case for filing, the last name of the female party determines the division in which the case will be filed. For example, if John Appleseed and Judy Appleseed are the parties listed in a new divorce filing, the case would be assigned to Jefferson Family Court Division One (1).

If a party has a hyphenated last name, then the second part of the last name would be used to assign the case to a family court judge. If both parties are of the same sex, then the case is assigned based on the last name of the Petitioner, i.e. the person filing the case.

The family court system is centered around the idea of "one family, one judge, one court." Therefore, Jefferson Family Court local rules provide that if a new action is filed regarding the same parties, then the case should be assigned to the family court division in which the parties first appeared.

To read a copy of the Jefferson Family Court rules for yourself, click on the following link:

As can be seen from the table above, the Jefferson Family Court will be going through significant change over the coming months as six (6) of the ten (10) divisions will be undergoing a change in Judge, and the Court as a whole will be losing dozens of years of experience. To get informed about the candidates who are seeking to fill those vacancies, feel free to explore the links below (listed in no particular order):

Prepare for your Divorce or Custody Mediation

Mediation is a common way for disputes to be resolved outside of family court.  Most cases are ordered to mediation for no less than two (2) hours for the parties to a divorce or custody case to make a good faith attempt to resolve their issues before using court time and resources.

Mediation provides more flexibility than court in most instances and has many benefits, but you may want to be aware of the following information to help you prepare for your mediation session:

  • The mediator, usually a former judge or an experienced attorney, cannot force, make or require you to sign a settlement agreement. The mediator is a neutral person who assists parties in negotiations. The mediator cannot disclose any information to the Court other than whether a full or partial agreement was reached, and this is usually done by the filing of a simple report after the mediation.

  • If you and the other party reach an agreement on some or all issues, a written agreement will generally be prepared for your signature at the conclusion of the mediation session. If you sign an agreement at mediation, you will be bound to the terms. The Court will accept the agreement and will not allow either party to withdraw his/her consent or modify the terms of the agreement.  Typically, the mediated agreement will be entered by the Judge in your case as a Court Order. Failure to comply with the terms of such a Court Order, can warrant contempt sanctions against the party who fails to comply.


  • Depending on the issues in your case, a Court may be allowed to modify the mediated agreement in the future under certain circumstances, particularly in dealing with family law (divorce/custody) issues, e.g., child support, custody, visitation. Be sure to discuss with us prior to mediation, the types of issues which could be modified in the future and the legal requirements for modification. In addition, laws change over time and such changes may effectively modify your agreement. It is not possible however, to foresee the future and the changes which may occur. Thus, there is some prospective uncertainty to any agreement reached in the present.


  • During mediation, you may need advice from another professional, such as, a certified public accountant, tax preparer, mortgage broker or realtor. As an attorney, we cannot give you advice in other specialized fields. It may be prudent for you to contact one or more of these professionals, in advance, and arrange for a telephone conference, if necessary, during mediation.  Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this. If professional advice is necessary, but unavailable to you during mediation, you have the right to delay signing any agreement in order to obtain the required advice or information.


  • In order to be prepared for mediation, you should be well-rested and free from the influence of any mood or mind-altering medications.


  • Come prepared to compensate the mediator for his/her time in helping you negotiate your case. Usually the Court will order the parties to divide the expense of mediation equally or proportionally prior to mediation being scheduled.


  • Since mediation can be very stressful, do not plan to skip nourishment before or during mediation. Your decision-making ability dependson your physical and emotional well-being. Take appropriate steps to be as comfortable and at ease throughout the process as possible.


  • If you are responsible for the care of others, i.e., children or pets, make arrangements for their care in advance as mediation sessions may last longer than anticipated.


  • You are under no obligation to settle your case during mediation.  It is natural for each side to feel pressure during mediation as the mediator does his/her job.  If a mediated agreement is signed, it will be vour decision. Neither the mediator, us or any third party can compel you to settle your case. Do not sign a settlement for any reason other than you want to do so.


  • If a mediated settlement is reached in whole or in part, you will generally be precluded from obtaining discovery or other information regardingthe settled issues. Thus, if further information/documentation is desired by you on an issue, you are responsible raising this issue and discussing it fully with us prior to signing any agreement.

Provide Your Feedback on Kentucky Family Law Court Forms

The deadline to submit feedback on legal forms that are used in Kentucky family law cases (including, but not limited to, divorces, custody and child support cases) is Thursday, July 31, 2014.

That date is just after the Family Civil Rules Forms session at the Kentucky Bar Association Convention at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

Get full details, including a link to the forms, here:

Comments and questions can be sent to:




Relocating with Your Child in Kentuckiana

One of the most common family law issues we encounter, particularly because our practice involves representing custodians in multiple counties and states, involves relocating with minor children.

Sometimes only short geographical distances are involved, such as a parent moving across town in metro Louisville, or from Louisville to Oldham County or southern Indiana. Other cases involve parents wanting to move hundreds or thousands of miles for a variety of reasons, including work or to be closer to family members after a divorce or separation.

The rules that govern what relocating parents must do at the courthouse and with the other parent (or other person exercising custody or parenting time, such as a grandparent) vary depending on where you currently live.

Indiana Rules on Relocation

Indiana has had a law on the books for some time regarding parties who share children and desire to change residences. (Click here to read the complete Indiana Code statute, I.C. 31-17-2.2)

The law requires a notice to be filed with the court and served on the other parent by registered or certified mail ninety (90) days or more before the move.

The notice needs to include specific and detailed information, including:

  • Physical address of the new residence (there may be exceptions for situations that involve domestic violence or protective orders);
  • New phone numbers, if any;
  • Date of the proposed move;
  • Reason for the move;
  • Proposed new parenting time schedule;
  • Statements advising the non-relocating parent about certain rights that he or she has.

One of the defining features of Indiana's rule is that this protocol must be followed for all proposed moves when a change of the individual's primary residence will occur for at least a sixty (60) day period - regardless of which parent has custody (or whether joint custody is shared) and regardless of whether a parent is moving across the street or moving to a new state or country.

One of the common questions asked is whether a notice has to be filed if the parties are not presently involved in an ongoing court case regarding their child or perhaps have no existing orders regarding custody, parenting time, child support, and the like.

Imagine a scenario where a husband and wife are having marital problems, but before either parent files for divorce, one parent wants to relocate with the children. Or if a child is born out of wedlock, and the parents have never been to court to set up parenting time, and either the mother or father desires to move with the child.

The Indiana relocation law requires all individuals who have (or who are seeking) child custody or parenting time, and who intend to relocate their residence, provide the notice above to an individual who has (or is seeking) child custody, parenting time or grandparent visitation. The first provision of the statute specifically states that if the section of the law discussing a prior custody or parenting time order being issued does not apply, then the notice should be filed with the court clerk that has jurisdiction over the legal proceedings concerning custody or parenting time of the child. The law also speaks to allowing a court to consider relocation at the initial custody hearing.

The non-relocating parent must file an objection, if any, within sixty (60) days of receiving the notice to relocate. It is possible for the court to enter a temporary restraining order prohibiting relocation while the matter is pending.

Either party can ask the Court for a hearing to review and modify any present orders, and the Court should take into account the following factors:

  • The distance involved in the proposed change of residence;
  • The hardship and expense involved for the non-relocating individual to exercise parenting time or grandparent visitation;
  • The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating individual and the child through suitable parenting time and grandparent visitation arrangements, including consideration of the financial circumstances of the parties;
  • Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by the relocating individual, including actions by the relocating individual to either promote or thwart a non-relocating individual's contact with the child;
  • The reasons provided by each parent for seeking or opposing the relocation of the child;
  • Other factors affecting the best interest of the child.

After the notice requirements are met, it is possible that relocating with your child in Indiana may be a more straightforward task than in some other jurisdictions. In Kentucky and other states, the burden may be on the relocating party to show that the move is in the child's best interests, which can be difficult if the child is engrained in the local school and/or community with friends and family.

Indiana, however, does not put all of the burden on the relocating parent. That person must initially show that the proposed move is made in good faith and for a legitimate reason. If those are requirements are met, then the burden "shifts" to the non-relocating parent to show that the proposed move is not in the best interest of the child. Failure to file a motion objecting to the move can also be fatal to an individual's hopes of keeping the child in his or her present location.

Kentucky Rules on Relocation

In the past few years, Kentucky for the first time implemented statewide rules of practice for Family Court.

The rule regarding relocation has already gone through some changes. Initially, the rule looked at whether a parent was moving more than 100 miles away or to another state.

The current rule, which was modified in late 2012, asks whether the relocating parent has joint or sole custody in determining the necessary steps to a successful move.

sole custodian who desires to move must file written notice with the court and serve the notice on the non-custodial parent prior to the move. Within twenty (20) days of being served with the notice, the non-custodial parent may file a motion contesting any change in court-ordered visitation caused by the move.

joint custodian who desires to move also must file written notice with the Court and serve the notice on the non-relocating parent who shares joint legal custody. Additional language in this rule, however, demonstrates that a joint custody arrangement involves additional steps:

Either party may file a motion for change of custody or time-sharing within 20 days of service of the notice if the custodians are not in agreement; or, the parties shall file an agreed order if the time sharing arrangement is modified by agreement.

The rule cites two Kentucky cases which provide the basis for the rule, either of which you can read on Google Scholar by clicking on the following links:

(To read the entire Kentucky rule for yourself, click on this link for the PDF on the official courts website and scroll to Rule 7(2) of the Family Court Rules of Practice & Procedure (FCRPP).



Reviewing the different relocation rules of just these two states separated by the Ohio River illustrate the various issues that can arise in these cases. Parents wanting to move with their children are some of the most difficult cases that family court judges encounter on a weekly basis.


  • The rules you have to follow may (such as in Kentucky) or may not (such as in Indiana) be dependent on whether there is a joint or sole custody arrangement.
  • The best practice is generally to provide notice to your local court and to any other party if you are moving, even if you are not aware of any existing orders for custody or parenting time.
  • The time period for objecting to a relocation can vary from twenty (20) to sixty (60) days, but certain situations may require even more immediate action.

As always, do not rely on anything you read on the Internet as legal advice, and your particular situation should be reviewed with a competent family law professional who has experience in dealing with relocation issues so that you can comply with the rules in your area.