Kansas Child Custody
Your children’s future is a foremost concern. We have extensive experience in resolving child custody disputes outside of the courtroom. However, we are also skilled advocates, prepared to aggressively protect your children’s welfare in the event that negotiations fail during or after the divorce. Whether you are going through an uncontested or highly contested divorce, involved in a custody dispute, seeking assistance modifying child support, or in need of guardianship papers, we can assist you. Call our family law attorneys with offices in Wichita, Topeka, or Lawrence Kansas for help from an experienced and honest divorce and family law attorney today.
Child Custody & Support Laws in Kansas
Note: The following is an overview of Kansas child custody and support laws. It is general information only and not legal advice. Each and every situation is different and you will need to call one of our local divorce attorneys for advice about what to do in your unique situation.
CHILD CUSTODY: The court is authorized to make any custodial arrangement that it finds to be in the best interest of the child during your divorce proceedings. Many litigants equate the term “custody” with where the children live, but the term “custody” actually defines broader legal rights of the parties. That is, joint legal custody does not mean that the child will reside equal amounts of time with each parent. Joint legal custody awards the parties equal rights to make decisions in the best interest of the child on issues such as medical care, child care, and education. Should the court find that it is not in the best interest of the child for the parties to share decision-making responsibilities, it may award one party sole legal custody. If the court awards sole legal custody, it is required to include on the record specific finding of facts setting out the basis for that decision. In the vast majority of divorce cases, the parties are awarded joint legal custody.
RESIDENCY OF THE CHILD: The court will order a residential placement arrangement that is consistent with the best interests of the child. It may provide for the child to reside primarily with one parent, or it may provide for the child to split residency between parents. Shared residential placement exists when the child spends equal or nearly equal blocks of time with each parent. Shared residency requires parents to be extremely cooperative and works best when the parties live in close proximity to each other. In extraordinary circumstances, the court may provide for a divided residency scenario in which multiple children of mutual parents are split between their parents’ residences such that the siblings to do reside together.
PARENTING TIME: Parenting time has replaced the term “visitation” and defines the time periods a child will be with each parent during the divorce proceedings. The court can grant a specific “parenting plan” or adopt the agreed plan of the parties. The parenting plan may be as vague as “reasonable parenting time as agreed upon by the parties,” or it may provide a detailed outline of the non-residential parent’s parenting time days, exchange times and locations, and a structured holiday schedule. When one parent has been designated the primary residential parent of a child, the other parent is generally awarded parenting time. The parenting plan in shared residency arrangements will define the blocks of time the child spends with each parent.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Most Kansas divorce courts require that parties with minor children participate in some form of alternative dispute resolution prior to appearing before the court over a residential placement or parenting time dispute. There are statutory provisions for mediation and case management, which allow the parents to attempt to resolve their custody and parenting time issues without the need for a contested court hearing. The parties’ first introduction to mediation typically comes when the respondent seeks a modification to the ex parte order obtained by the petitioner. Divorce mediation is a confidential proceeding during which the parties, with or without their divorce attorneys, meet with a trained mediator and attempt to resolve their parenting issues without further court intervention. Case management can be ordered by the court to assist highly conflicted parties on issues related to legal custody, residency, and parenting time, as well as any other issues the parties agree to submit. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on the issues, the case manager will submit a recommendation to the court. Some jurisdictions offer limited case management or conciliation, which are hybrids of mediation and case management. Limited case management and conciliation are not confidential. The parties attempt to reach an agreement on the disputed issues with a trained limited case manager or conciliator. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on any issue, the limited case manager or conciliator will submit a written report to the court that will include his or her recommendation for resolution of disputed issues. Although it cannot be ordered by the court, the parties can submit any contested issues to arbitration. The parties have a duty to file with the court any orders necessary to implement the arbitrator’s decision.
CHILD SUPPORT: Child support during your divorce is determined by the Kansas Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines provide a basis for establishing and reviewing child support orders, even those settled by agreement. Judges, attorneys and hearing officers must follow the guidelines, and the court is required to consider all relevant evidence submitted when establishing a child support amount. A base child support amount is determined based on the gross income of each party. Then, adjustments are made based on parenting time and items such as long-distance parenting time costs, health/dental/vision insurance costs, and day care costs. Each party must submit a child support worksheet in all contested child support proceedings.