District Court is the court of limited jurisdiction and handles juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse. District judges serve four-year terms.
As a division of Circuit Court with general jurisdiction, the family court division of Circuit Court further retains primary jurisdiction in cases involving dissolution of marriage; child custody; visitation; maintenance and support; equitable distribution of property in dissolution cases; adoption; and, termination of parental rights. In addition to general jurisdiction of Circuit Court, the family court division of Circuit Court, concurrent with the District Court, has jurisdiction over proceedings involving domestic violence and abuse; the Uniform Act on Paternity and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act; dependency, neglect, and abuse; and, juvenile status offenses.
One judge may serve more than one county within a circuit. Some circuits contain only one county but have several judges, depending on population and caseload. Circuit judges serve in eight-year terms.
Family Court provides one judge to hear all of a family’s issues relating to divorce, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. Because Family Court is devoted exclusively to cases involving families and children, these cases do not compete with criminal and other civil cases for court time.
Family Court is a division of Circuit Court, Kentucky’s highest trial court level, and employs full-time judges with the same qualifications as those who serve other divisions of Circuit Court. Family Court currently serves more than 3.2 million Kentuckians in 71 counties.