Kansas family law matters encompass a wide range of issues such as divorce, child custody, property division, and child support. Understanding what goes into each particular issue takes an in depth knowledge of the law and the facts of an individual’s particular case. Our primer, below, will help you establish an initial understanding and basis of how the court will decide your Kansas family law matter and allow you to make informed decisions on what steps are next for you and your family. We can even connect you – for free – to a local Kansas family law professional that can provide you with additional help should you decide to go that route.
The decision to file for divorce can be a difficult time in one’s life. When going through divorce proceedings in Kansas, it is important to know that Kansas allows both no-fault divorce and limited fault-based grounds for divorce. The relevant Kansas Statute Chapter 23 Article 27 Section 1 states: “The district court shall grant a decree of divorce or separate maintenance for any of the following grounds: (1) Incompatibility (2) failure to perform a material marital duty or obligation; or (3) incompatibility by reason of mental illness or mental incapacity of one or both spouses.” This means that a divorce petition can be granted when the filing party states that marriage should be terminated because of incompatibility between the spouses. Both spouses agree, under these no-fault incompatibility rules that neither party is directly at fault for the marriage breaking down. This is the most common way people divorce in Kansas and it is also the normally the fastest and least expensive way.
People do, however, have the option of filing for a fault-based divorce as well under Kansas Statute 23-2701(a)(2) and (3). This requires proof and evidence of mental illness, lack of mental capacity, or one of the spouses failing to perform a “marital duty.” When filing for fault divorce in Kansas, the filing party must be ready to prove with competent evidence one of these specific reasons.
Residency Rules and Waiting Requirements
For a married couple to divorce in Kansas, they must prove specific residency requirements prior to filing for divorce. Kansas Statute 23-2703(a) states: “The petitioner or respondent in an action for divorce must have been an actual resident of the state for 60 days immediately preceding the filing of the petition.’ The petitioner is the spouse filing the divorce and the respondent is the other spouse, and one of them must have been a resident for at least 60-days prior to filing their petition for dissolution of marriage.
One additional issue often forces people filing for divorce to reach out for Kansas family law help is that they do not realize that there is a mandatory waiting period before the court will grant a final divorce decree – even for uncontested divorces. The court imposes a mandatory waiting period of 60-days before a final divorce hearing can be held. Kansas Statute Chapter 23 Article 27 Section 8 (23-2708) states: “Action for divorce; time for hearing. An action for divorce shall not be heard until 60 days after the filing of the petition unless the judge enters an order declaring the existence of an emergency, stating the precise nature of the emergency, the substance of the evidence material to the emergency and the names of the witnesses who gave the evidence.”
Division of property is contentious issue for many divorcing couples as well. The judge will divide the couples “marital property” according to their own individual formula and set of rules. First, understanding what is and what is not marital property is essential. Marital property is governed by Kansas Statue 23-2801 (found here).
Next, it is essential to understand that Kansas family law statutes, specifically Kansas Statute 23-2802, found here, follow the rule of an “equitable division or property.” This does not mean an equal division or property. The judge will look into where property came from (perhaps inheritance, a gift, or purchased prior to the marriage) and make a determination based on what he or she believes is just and equitable (fair) given the circumstances of each party. The judge will then order property to be sold, traded, or one party to keep something and another to keep another item of property.
Alimony – Spousal Maintenance
I some instances, one spouse may be forced to pay to the other spouse, for a period of time, money in the form of maintenance (formerly known as alimony0 so that a spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living post-divorce. Kansas Statute 23-2902 states as follows: “Maintenance. (a) A decree under K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 23-2711, and amendments thereto, may award to either party an allowance for future support denominated as maintenance, in an amount the court finds to be fair, just and equitable under all of the circumstances.” Whatever amount is ordered as “fair” by the judge, the payments cannot exceed 121 months in total, according to Kansas Statute 23-2904.
Kansas Child Support
Kansas child support law takes a hardline approach and requires a child support order to be entered in all divorce cases that involve child custody and cases where parents are unmarried (paternity cases). Kansas child support guidelines can be found here at Kansas Judicial Branch website. Kansas is committed to making sure that child support is understood to be the right of all children. As a result, the granting of child support awards is not allowed to be waived, even when both parents agree to waive child support. This is against public policy and is not allowed.
The court follows a detailed formula that is devised through completing worksheets detailing everything from the amount of parenting time each parent has to the amount of income each parent earns. Outside of child support, parents may also be responsible for paying for out of pocket medical educational, and insurance costs for the children.
Kansas Child Custody
Child custody cases in Kansas can be difficult and draining for both parents and children. These are normally the cases that require Kansas family law help as they are overly emotional. Kansas follows the standard of the “best interests of the child” when determining the most adequate child custody agreement for the child. Specifically, Kansas Statute 23-3201 states: “The court shall determine custody of a child in accordance with the best interests of the child.” This means that numerous factors will come into play regarding the best interests of the child. Kansas Statute 23-3203 states the primary factors taken into consideration for making a child custody determination:
“In determining the issue of child custody, residency and parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
(a) Each parent’s role and involvement with the minor child before and after separation;
(b) the desires of the child’s parents as to custody or residency;
(c) the desires of a child of sufficient age and maturity as to the child’s custody or residency;
(d) the age of the child;
(e) the emotional and physical needs of the child;
(f) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(g) the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community;
(h) the willingness and ability of each parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the other parent and to allow for a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
(i) evidence of spousal abuse, either emotional or physical;
(j) the ability of the parties to communicate, cooperate and manage parental duties;
(k) the school activity schedule of the child;
(l) the work schedule of the parties;
(m) the location of the parties’ residences and places of employment;
(n) the location of the child’s school;
(o) whether a parent is subject to the registration requirements of the Kansas offender registration act,
(p) whether a parent has been convicted of abuse of a child,
(q) whether a parent is residing with an individual who is subject to registration requirements of the Kansas offender registration act,
(r) whether a parent is residing with an individual who has been convicted of abuse of a child.”
Keep in mind that joint or sole custody does not necessarily imply the amount of parenting time both parents have. It is possible for noncustodial parents who have had the other parent awarded sole custody to spend more time with their child than in many joint custody situations. Shared physical custody, although possible in some rare instances, is generally not granted as it would require close proximity in geographic distance and very cooperative parents. This would be a situation where parents live blocks away from each other, get along extremely well, and are able to have equal parenting blocks of time with the child such as one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. While some parents may prefer and want this, its application is normally not possible.
Kansas Father’s Rights
While the State of Kansas has explicitly provided that the sex of a parent should have no bearing on a child custody decision, the reality is that for many men, the bias is clear that the courts favor a mother when awarding child custody. Kansas Father’s rights lawyers and advocates have fought to change the perception that mom is the best parent and in many cases, men come out on top and win sole custody or become the residential parent as they showcase their ability to be a positive and primary caregiver for their child.
This is not to say that winning custody for a man is as easy as it is for a woman. In many instances, men shoot themselves in the foot by allowing the mother to be primarily responsible for bath time, feeding the children, and other normal day to day things. Men need to beware of common pitfalls than can derail their case. And having a father’s rights expert on your side is always a plus.
The Next Step for You
Getting educated and finding out the level of Kansas family law help you need. Some people can go it alone, but most believe it is best to get involvement from an expert in family law. While it is possible to have a positive outcome with a legal professionals help, your chances of getting the rights you deserve normally increase exponentially with the hiring of a Kansas family law expert. The good news? We can help educate you with our articles and then connect you – at no cost – to a local Kansas family law professional who can let you know how to protect your rights.