In Kansas, courts will order custody based on the child’s best interests, with joint custody being the preferred arrangement. Joint custody in Kansas often implies that parents share the responsibilities of legal custody, meaning that they are jointly responsible for making major decisions about their child’s life.
For instance, these decisions will encompass where the child will attend school, what type of medical attention they will receive, or which religion they will practice. While joint legal custody is often shared, Kansas courts usually arrange for one parent to have primary physical custody and the other parent to have some parenting time over weekends or holidays. The physical custody arrangement is when parents share equal parenting time and are in agreement.
However, a judge will order a different arrangement if joint legal or physical custody is not considered a good fit for a family. Sole custody provides one parent with both legal and physical responsibilities for the child. This arrangement sometimes permits the non-custodial parent to have some visitation rights.
But, if neither joint nor sole custody is a good match, other custody arrangements are reserved for these types of exceptional cases. In a case where there are multiple children involved, a judge may order divided custody where each child lives with a different parent. For example, In a case where neither parent can care for the child, a judge will order non-parental custody where someone such as a grandparent or other legal guardian will obtain custody of the child. Remember that divided or non-parent custody is saved only for exceptional child custody cases in Kansas.
Moreover, Parents who attend court for a custody agreement can present their arrangement to the judge, who will likely approve it. If parents have not agreed, it will be decided in the courtroom. In all cases, the final decision is made after a judge has considered what is in the child’s best interests.
Under Kansas child custody laws, best interests are considered by examining several factors, including:
- Wishes to both parents and the child;
- How well adjusted the child is to their community home and school; and
- Whether there is a history of spousal abuse in the family.
Once a final arrangement is determined, parents should abide by this ruling. Yet, the court does retain the power to modify the physical custody arrangement by altering the child’s primary residence. Although this is rare, it may occur in cases where abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, or neglect becomes an important factor.
What Factors Does a Judge Examine When Deciding Custody in Kansas?
When deciding placement or custody of the minor children, the court prioritizes the children’s best interest, not the parent’s wishes. The court studies several items and considers the child’s best interests to be whatever promotes the children’s physical and mental health and safety.
Furthermore, the Kansas statute lists the following factors, among others, as mentioned earlier:
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The wishes of the parents and the child; which parent will most cooperate in helping the child keep a bond with the other parent; and evidence of spousal abuse; and
- Neither the mother nor the father is preferred because of sex. Each case is reviewed on its facts according to the child’s best interests.
If the child is a teenager, the judge may be willing to inquire about the child’s wishes as to residence and the child’s reasons. There is no specific age when a child decides where they live, but usually, the older the child, the more weight that child’s desires are provided by the court. Furthermore, the parties may agree on the type of custody best suits their circumstances. They may then present their agreement to the judge for approval.
Moreover, Kansas law provides a presumption that a written agreement between the parties about custody or residency of their minor child is in the child’s best interest. Keep in mind that the court retains the power to modify the primary residence of a child until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.
Generally, if the parties stay in the same state, a motion to alter primary custody must be filed in the same court where the divorce or paternity occurred. The law requires material circumstances to change before a judge modifies a custody order. Typically, the change of circumstances will be something in the residential parent’s home that hurts the child. This can include physical abuse, use of illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, or neglect.
What is Mediation in Custody in Kansas?
According to the Kansas Bar, In situations where visitation is an issue, the court can order the parties into mediation which is a process by which a neutral person assists the parties in reaching an agreement outside the court. The mediator is known to be a communication facilitator and has no authority to enter orders or provide recommendations to the court.
Moreover, mediation is a confidential process in that statements made in mediation cannot be used in court. Such confidentiality is designed to promote open communication between the parents to guide them in reaching parental agreements.
Furthermore, a judge may restrict or even prohibit access if there is evidence that visitation would be extremely harmful to the child, as in instances of child abuse. In some situations, the court will order that any visitation be supervised by a third party, such as a social worker, relative, or court officer.
A parent who is prohibited from seeing a child may, at a later time, petition the court for visitation if conditions improve. On some rare occasions, a court may condition visitation on payment of child support.
How can I File for Custody in Kansas?
Kansas laws also state that you could usually file for custody in the “home state” of the child. Usually, Kansas would qualify as your child’s “home state” if the child has resided in Kansas with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least the past six months. If your child is less than six months old, then your child’s home state is the state where they have lived since birth. However, going from the state for a short period does not alter your child’s home state.
Additionally, you may initiate a custody case in a Kansas court if Kansas was your child’s “home state” in the six months before going to court and at least one parent or a “person acting as a parent” still resides in Kansas even if your child does not.
But, there are exceptions to the “home state” rule though. In some cases, you can file for custody in a state where the children and at least one parent hold “significant connections.”. But, we can only do this if there is no home state or if the home state has agreed to allow another state to hear the case.
When Do I Need To Contact a Lawyer?
If you reside in Kansas and have issues with child custody decisions, do not hesitate to reach out to a local Kansas child custody attorney to assist you with your case.