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Dispelling Ten Common Myths about Child Custody Disputes [Part II]

Weber Law June 15, 2015

This is the second installment of a three-part blog series that provides information rebutting common misconception about parenting plans and other child custody issues in Kansas.  While we have addressed some of the most prevalent myths, we invite readers to contact us to speak to an experienced Kansas Family Law Attorney to obtain answers to questions about their specific situation.

 Myth No. 3: If a parent ordered to pay child support fails to fulfill this obligation, the primary residential parent can suspend custodial or visitation time with the delinquent parent.

 Parenting time or visitation is completely independent of the parental responsibility to pay child support.  The policy of Kansas to promote contact with both parents absent parental fitness issues makes it inappropriate to use parental access as a tool to force compliance with child support orders.  If the obligated parent is not paying child support, there are appropriate remedies that can be used to enforce a child support order, such as pursuing a contempt action.  Parents should never use self-help in the form of ignoring custody or visitation orders to compel payment of child support arrearages.

 Myth No. 4: There is no need to be concerned about allegations of domestic violence against you in a custody dispute if you have been a good parent.

Domestic violence is a serious issue that can have a dramatic impact on the lives of victims.  However, requests for protective orders based on allegations of domestic violence can be used by a parent to obtain a strategic advantage in a child custody dispute.  Kansas law imposes a rebuttable presumption against a joint custody arrangement involving a party with a history of domestic violence.  If a parent is determined to be a perpetrator of domestic violence, the parent also might be subject to a residential exclusion order, which also could impact custody arrangements because of the stability offered by allowing parents to remain in the family home.  Depending on the situation, a parent found to have engaged in domestic violence against the other parent could be limited to supervised visitation.

 Myth No. 5: The parent with the means to provide the highest standard of living will have an advantage in a child custody dispute.

 There is really no correlation between the relative income of the parents and the tendency of a court in selecting a primary residential parent.  The parent with the higher income also might work longer hours.  A grueling work schedule can be a disadvantage because the parent who spends more time as the children’s caretaker often has an advantage in custody disputes.  Further, careers that involve lots of travel or long-periods on the road also can make it more difficult to prevail in a custody dispute.  While a substantially higher income might increase a child support obligation, the judge will not consider the higher income of a parent as a factor in awarding custody unless one parent lacks the financial ability to provide for the child’s basic needs even with a child support order.

Myth No. 6: It does not matter which parent the children live with prior to the court imposing a custody order.

Although custody arrangements are easier to change prior to a formal order, parenting arrangements prior to a judge make a ruling should not be taken lightly.  Judges recognize the impact of divorce on kids who must cope with an enormous amount of transition in the middle of a marital dissolution, including more limited time with one or both parents, reduced interaction with family and friends, enrollment in a new school, and relocation from the family home.  Judges who routinely handle child custody issues in divorce and paternity actions understand that the process can be less stressful for kids if efforts are made to limit these changes.  This perspective can make maintaining a workable status quo that involves one parent acting as the de facto caretaker an appealing long-term option.  This type of short-term informal living arrangements might not have a significant influence if the other parent makes reasonable efforts to see the children.  However, a prolonged period that involves a significantly unbalanced parenting schedule can impact the outcome of a child custody dispute.

 If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions.  We invite you to call the Kansas Family Law Attorneys at the Weber Law Office or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.