Often the most difficult issue to resolve in a divorce is that of child custody. You can see how quickly your children are growing up, and you don’t want to lose any of the time you might spend with them. You also want to guide and counsel them as they grow. Unfortunately, there usually has to be some give and take when it comes to custody, and the judge is bound to make decisions based on what he or she believes to be in the best interests of the child rather than your personal preferences. For these reasons, it’s important to work closely with an experienced and dedicated Kansas child custody lawyer. At The Henry Law Firm, P.A. in Overland Park, we draw on 30 years of combined experience to help our clients find effective and lasting solutions to even the most complex child custody disputes.
Child custody refers to the rights and responsibilities of a parent toward a child. In Kansas, there are two concurrent types of child custody:
Each of these types of custody can be award jointly or solely to one parent. When both parents are mature and responsible, courts favor joint legal custody. Residential custody depends on the ability and availability of a parent to perform the duties of a primary caretaker. The criteria for awarding these types of custody can differ, so it is possible to have situations where parents have joint legal custody, but one parent has sole residential custody. The amount of time the child lives with each parent has an impact on the child support order.
In rare cases, where parents have more than one child, there can be split or divided custody, so that each parent has sole residential custody of at least one of the children. Courts hesitate to agree to such parenting plans because siblings can experience anxiety when separated.
When applying the “best interests of the child” standard, judges can consider any relevant information. Factors commonly used during these considerations include:
Courts are not permitted to prefer one parent over the other because of gender. A court may consider a mature child’s preference for residential custody.
Courts often prefer for parents to work out a parenting plan on their own and present it to the court for approval. Once approved, the plan then becomes the basis for the court’s custody order. Our family law attorneys are often successful in helping clients achieve settlements through traditional negotiation or mediation, so they can avoid the additional time, stress and expense of a trial. A settlement gives you greater control over the outcome, and both parents are generally more likely to commit to a plan they’ve worked out on their own, rather than one handed down to them by a judge.
If parents do not share residential custody, the nonresidential parent generally has the right to frequent, meaningful visitation or “parenting time” with the children. However, if a parent is unfit, and contact would be detrimental to the child, the court can restrict or prohibit visitation. Unfortunately, during custody proceedings, some parents will make unfounded accusations of unfitness to gain an advantage over the other parent. Our attorneys can help parents overcome assaults on their character to defend their visitation rights. We also help other parties, such as grandparents or siblings seeking to establish visitation when justified by the circumstances.
If you find your parenting plan is not working, or if one parent refuses to abide by the plan, you may have to return to court for enforcement or modification. To grant a change to the child custody order, a court generally requires a material change of circumstances. So, if a residential parent has failed to live up to his or her responsibilities, like getting a child ready for visitation, a judge is likely to issue a warning that the parent can be held in contempt of court. However, for more serious issues, the court could exercise its authority to change the custody order. Situations that can persuade a court to implement a modification include the following:
As with initial custody matters, courts review modification requests based on whether the proposed adjustment is in the child’s best interests.
One of the most difficult child custody issues to work out arises when a residential parent wants to move the child to a new home that is distant enough to threaten the visitation rights of a nonresidential parent. Like many states, Kansas has a specific child relocation statute that governs this issue. A residential parent who wants to relocate must give written notice to the other parent, who has the right to oppose the move. The court will consider the possibility of a move as a substantial change in circumstances that could warrant a modification to the child custody order. The court looks at any and all relevant factors to determine whether the move will benefit the parties’ children. In some cases, a relocation might be allowed with modification to visitation terms, such as a schedule calling for fewer, but longer, visits.
The Henry Law Firm, P.A. cares about your relationship with your children. We want to help you obtain a child custody order that serves your child’s best interests and allows you to maintain a loving relationship. To schedule a consultation with our Overland Park attorneys, call us at 913-381-5020 or contact our firm online.