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.