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Kansas Child Custody

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In Kansas, there is legal custody and there is parenting time. There is no such thing as “full custody” and residential custody is a bit of a misnomer.

Legal Custody

Legal custody simply means the ability to make major decisions on behalf of your children.  For example, decisions regarding education, healthcare and religion. The ability to make joint legal custody decisions on behalf of your child does not reach to every-day decisions like whether to eat at McDonald’s or Burger King. Day to day decisions are made by the parent with whom the children are with at the time. Most cases are resolved on a joint legal custody basis.  Joint legal custody grants both parents the ability to make important life decisions for their child or children. Joint legal custody presumes the parents will discuss and agree on important items and ensures equal access to all of the child’s records and information. Sole legal custody means everything that joint legal custody means with one major difference – only one parent has final decision-making authority with respect to important issues such as education, healthcare or religion. Like joint legal custody, sole legal custody also presumes full access to information and records and discussions regarding major decisions. An award of sole legal custody to one party is strongly discouraged and rare, but can be a proper order in certain circumstances.

Issues of child custody are determined based on the child’s best interest standard. You should discuss with your attorney the differences between joint and sole legal custody and how the factors used to determine the same may or may not apply to the facts of your case.

Parenting Time

Parenting time simply means the amount of time each party will be exercising with their children.  Because the parents are separating there has to be some clearly delineated and scheduled time to ensure that the children exercise the most appropriate amount of time with each parent. There are a number of different types of parenting plan schedules which parents can agree to or which the courts can order.  The best parenting time schedules are those which reflect the reality of the circumstances of the parties and children. If what works best is a true equal share of parenting time or shared residency, that can come in many different forms so long as the parenting time equals out over a two-week period. Parties can alternate weeks (week-on-week-off) or parents can split up the weeks by exercising a 2-5 or a 2-2-3 schedule over a two-week period.

The 2-5 schedule typically gives one parent Monday, Tuesday, and the other parent Wednesday, Thursday. Each parent then alternates exercising weekend parenting time Friday through Monday morning. A 2-2-3 schedule works the same way except the parents switch weekdays each week. For example, in Week 1 Mother has Monday and Tuesday and Father has Wednesday and Thursday. In Week 2 Father has Monday Tuesday and Mother has Wednesday Thursday. Both parents still alternate weekends from Friday through Monday morning. A week on week off plan is exactly as it sounds, and tends to work best with older children. There is no perfect fit for every family.

Some families may benefit from exercising a parenting plan, which keeps the children primarily with one parent over the other during the week for purposes of school and structure of schedule. In other situations, one overnight per week and alternating weekends from Friday through Sunday may be the most one parent is able to exercise due to other responsibilities or time constraints.  Some parents have unorthodox schedules and will require a more flexible or creative arrangement of parenting time.  The parenting time schedule can be whatever it needs to be, so long as the parents agree or the court finds it to be in the children’s best interest.

Determination of parenting time is based on the child’s best interest standard. You should discuss with your attorney the parenting time options available to serve your children’s best interests.

Residential Custody

Residential Custody is a term often used by attorneys and clients alike. Most often this refers to the party with whom the child or children reside with primarily. For example, if Mother has the children during the week and Father exercises alternating weekends and one night per week, Mother would be considered the “residential custodian.” This term more accurately describes where “home base” is or the address from which children will attend school. The more progressive, and more accurate, term is “address for education and mailing purposes.” This simply means that this the child or children’s address for school districting and attendance purposes and where important mail will be sent regarding the child or children. It doesn’t mean the parent who lives there has any more rights to the child or children than the other parent. Schools, health care providers, activity organizations, etc., shouldn’t have to send duplicate copies of all mail to each party’s residence. For parties with joint legal custody there is an expectation that both parents will share all pertinent information with the other parent. These days, both parents should have equal access to all school information through an on-line portal but this doesn’t mean that a parent who receives an important notice regarding school shouldn’t share that with the other parent. There is far too much litigation over which parent gets the address for education and mailing purposes. In most cases, the reality of the situation should dictate which parent has the “home base” address. In reality, the best interests of the child or children rarely hinges on an address designation. That said, in certain circumstances there will be necessary disputes or litigation over where the children will attend school if certain programs or educational benefits at one school or one school district will better serve the best interests of the children. Consult with the team at Fairbanks Law regarding your case to learn more about residential address designations and the interplay between the child’s best interest standard.

Child’s Best Interest Standard

Issues of custody and parenting time are determined by a number of factors, including but not limited to, those which are outlined in KSA 23-3203.  Herein lies what is called the child’s best interest standard.  All matters of custody or parenting time are going to be determined based on what is in the child or children’s best interests.

The statute lays out a number of factors including the following:

  • a parent’s role and involvement with the children
  • the desires of the parents
  • the desires of a child of sufficient age and maturity
  • the age of the child
  • the emotional and physical needs of the child
  • the relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and other family members
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, or community
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the other parent
  • any evidence of domestic abuse
  • the ability of the parties to communicate
  • the activities and school and work schedule of the child and parties
  • the location of the parties residences and the children’s school
  • whether a party is subject to sex offender registration
  • whether a parent resides with an individual who is subject to sex offender registration
  • whether a party has been convicted of child abuse

This list is in no way all-inclusive. The child’s best interests standard can and often does include other factors which may be pertinent only to the specific facts and circumstances of the case. The child’s parents sit in the best possible position to determine the which factors matter most. With the aid of trusted counsel and if necessary, the Court, the final product should be a parenting plan which will serve the child’s best interests. Contact the team at Fairbanks Law today to schedule a consult.

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