kansas child custody laws

Child Custody

by Cottonwood Law Group, LC

updated on May 10, 2019

Child in court with parents discussing child custody


How will the Judge decide who gets custody?

The Judge’s decision will be based on the “best interests of the child.” 

This means that the Judge can look at essentially anything that affects the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the child to come to their decision. They are trying to decide what they think will be best for the child. The Judge can look at the residence of each party, their willingness to cooperate with the other party, their relationship with the child, criminal history, evidence of criminal activities, domestic abuse, etc.

Best interests of the Child in Kansas can include, but are not limited to:

  • The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  • The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved.

    If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

  • Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
  • The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.
  • What types of child custody orders are there?

    Either joint or Sole Legal Custody and Residential Custody.

    1. Legal custody

      refers to a parent’s access to school records, medical records, ability to make decisions regarding the raising of the minor child, etc.

    2. Joint Custody

      means that both parties are equally involved in the decision making.

    3. Sole Custody

      means that one party is solely responsible for those decisions.

    4. Residential Custody

      refers to where the child lives.

    Typically, one party is the primary residential parent and the other party has parenting time or “visitation” as agreed to by the parties. Parents can have shared residential custody where each parent has roughly equal parenting time with the child. This is not as common and only occurs when the situation allows and is in the child’s best interest.

    What is Legal Custody?

    This term refers to decision-making power for the child. This has nothing to do with parenting time or visitation schedules, only decisions for the child’s general well-being.

    Legal custody can be “Sole” or “Joint”.

    I will describe the differences below.

    1. Sole Custody

    is exactly what it sounds like…ONE parent can be designated to make all routine and major decisions on behalf of the child.

    So then it only follows that “Joint” Legal Custody translates to both parents making these types of decisions together, and no one parent has more say so than the other. Absent evidence of abuse or neglect, Courts favors the parents working together to have Joint Legal Custody.

    2. “Joint” Legal Custody

    translates to both parents making these types of decisions together, and no one parent has more say so than the other. Absent evidence of abuse or neglect, Courts favors the parents working together to have Joint Legal Custody.

    Major Decisions include but are not limited to:

    • What religion will my child practice?
    • What pediatrician will my child see?
    • What extra-curricular activities will my child participate in?
    • How will my child be disciplined?
    • What school will my child attend?
    • What child-care provider will I use?

    Minor/Routine Decisions include but are not limited to:

    • What will my child eat for dinner?
    • What type of clothing will my child wear?
    • What time will my child go to bed?
    • What types of chores will my child be responsible for?

    It’s important to understand the subtle and not so subtle differences in Sole vs. Joint Legal Custody so you know what to ask for in your initial pleadings and how to respond when answering pleadings you have been served with. 

    What reasons would a court need to change the child’s primary residence?

    The law usually requires a material change of circumstances before a judge will modify a custody order.

    Usually, the change of circumstances will be something in the residential parent’s home that has an adverse impact on the child, such as physical abuse, use of illegal drugs, alcohol abuse or neglect.

    Seldom will the mere improvement of conditions of the nonresidential parent be sufficient, absent other facts, for a Court to remove a child from a stable situation. Occasionally, the desires of a teenage child can serve as a change of circumstances.

    Writing a Parenting Plan

    If you and your spouse are going through divorce proceedings and have children, then one of the most important things to do right now is write a Parenting Plan. It is best to hire a lawyer who has the education and experience in writing a parenting plan. This plan will lay out how you and your spouse will deal with childcare issues. A written-out plan that you both agree on will avoid a lot of potential conflicts further down the road, and it will give your children greater stability and consistency

    You should include these elements in your parenting plan:

    Child Custody

    You have to work out if just one of you will be the children's primary caregiver, or if both of you will share in the duties. You also need to decide if one of you will get legal custody.

    Child Visitation Schedule

    If you have a shared custody agreement, then you need a visitation schedule. Figure out which days, weeks, or months the children will spend with each parent. Make your agreement with some wiggle room for both of you, to accommodate unexpected developments.

    The calendars below are examples of joint custody schedules. When your attorney writes a parenting plan for child custody you will decide what works for both parents.


    Holidays and Other Special Occasions
    You also need to decide on who gets the children for which holidays and other special occasions. Make sure you take into account graduations and birthdays. You could change the holidays every year, or stick to the same holidays always spent with the same parent.

    Childcare Providers
    Finding adequate childcare is difficult for a single parent. Before there is a problem, you both should agree on which childcare providers you both trust.

    Will your children go to daycare?
    Will they go to private or public schools?
    Who is responsible for your children's college savings?
    How much money should each parent contribute to them?
    You and your spouse should answer these questions no matter how young your children are.

    Medical Decisions
    You should both also discuss your childrens' use of prescription medications, their needs for mental health care, if any, and even issues like exercise and dieting.

    Health Insurance
    You should also decide whose health insurance will cover the children. You also need to write out an agreement for how you are going to share insurance premiums and copayments.

    A parenting plan may need to include an agreement on how communication between you and your spouse and/or between each of you and your children is to be carried out. If one of you has restricted visitation rights, or requires supervision during visits, then communication might need to be limited.

    Writing a Parenting Plan that you both agree on is one of the most important elements of the divorce process. If you need help, contact child custody attorney Joshua Boehm for advice. Divorce can be painful, and this can make communication with your spouse difficult, but if you take the time to work out a good agreement now, you will save yourselves and your children a lot of trouble later on.

    Phone: 620-266-1233

    Fax line: (620) 266-4449

    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 237 Hillsboro, KS 67063

    Email: josh@cottonwoodlawgroup.com

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