If you are a parent in the midst of divorce in Kansas, the prospect of a fundamental change in your parenting relationship can be a disturbing prospect. Admittedly, parents have a legitimate reason to be concerned about the emotional impact of a marital dissolution on their kids, but parents who manage to cooperate and focus on the best interests of their children often develop stable co-parenting arrangements. Experienced Wichita Child Custody Attorney J. Joseph Weber recognizes that the stress of custody disputes often increases because of misinformation and myths about divorce involving parents. This three-part blog post is intended to set the record straight by diffusing common misconceptions about child custody issues in a Kansas divorce.
Myth No. 1: Judges favor the mother in child custody cases.
There was a time when there was a clear preference for placing children with the mother as the primary residential parent in many states. This was especially true for young children under the so-called “tender years doctrine”. This general preference based on gender does not exist in favor of either parent under current law in Kansas. Public policy favors both parents having input into significant decisions regarding the children, such as education, medical treatment, religious training, and similar issues. The preference that parents share “joint custody” regarding these types of decisions in Kansas (referred to as “legal custody” in many jurisdictions) is so strong that the judge must make express findings on the record to justify designating one parent as having “sole custody”. The judge’s findings must reflect why such an arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
When it comes to a parent being designated as the primary residential parent, Kansas law does not favor a parent based on gender in this context either. Kansas public policy generally involves promoting frequent and continuing contact with both parents, so both parents often exercise extensive residential custodial time through a mutually agreeable parenting plan or a judge’s order.
However, the misconception that judges favor mom in custody disputes is based on more than just long discarded legal doctrines. Despite the prevalence of households where both parents work full-time, wives still tend to be the parent who primarily fills the role as caretaker for the children in homes where only one parent works. While gender is not a relevant factor in determining custody orders, courts give considerable weight to the parent who has a proven track record as the primary caretaker of the minor children.
Myth No. 2: The court will defer to the preferences of teenage children regarding which parent should be the primary residential parent.
While the court will consider the preferences of minor children of sufficient maturity and age, the wishes of the child are only one factor that is considered in fashioning a residential custody order. If the child is older and can articulate sound reasons for his or her preference, the judge is likely to give the child’s wishes more weight. If either parent attempts to manipulate the minor children into voicing a preference, this conduct can be held against the parent engaged in such a campaign.
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 at (316) 265-7802 or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.