Parents involved in divorce or custody disputes often worry that their parent-child relationship will be adversely affected. The impact of a custody case on minor children also constitutes an issue that concerns many parents involved in the process. Admittedly, the breakup of cohabiting parents or a marital dissolution will affect minor children in many ways, including changes in their living situation, time spent with parents and extended family, access to financial resources and potential exposure to animosity between parents. As a Wichita child custody attorney, J. Joseph Weber recognizes that one way to ease these concerns is to arm parents with information that demystifies the process. Mr. Weber has provided answers to frequently asked questions about child custody and visitation in Kansas in this two-part blog post.
What types of custody can a Kansas family court award to parents in a divorce or paternity case?
The term “joint custody” (referred to in many states as “legal custody”) involves the right of both parents to be involved in the process of making major decisions about their children. There is a strong preference under Kansas law that this form of custody be shared by both parents. These types of decisions involve issues like medical care, education, religious training and similar major parenting decisions.
“Residential custody” refers to the timeshare arrangement that determines the parent with whom the children reside. One parent often will be the primary residential parent while the other parent has the children on weekends, extended periods during summer vacations and/or designated holidays. Although a judge can grant joint residential custody, Kansas judges can be hesitant to grant this form of custody because it requires geographic proximity and a high degree of cooperation between the parents. However, this arrangement will often be approved by a judge when it is the result of an agreement by the parents.
Some parents prefer “sole custody” because the custodial parent is solely responsible for providing the home where their children live and exercising decisions about their children’s upbringing. This type of arrangement is usually limited to situations involving significant parental fitness issues or parents who are not involved in the child’s life.
Will the court honor an agreement regarding child custody and visitation (“access”) negotiated by the parents?
Generally, a court will approve a negotiated custody agreement by the parents. Public policy supports this approach because parents have far more knowledge of the circumstances involving their family. However, the judge has a duty to act in the best interest of the child, so there are limits to the agreements parents can create. For example, the parties cannot agree to make custody orders beyond the jurisdiction of the court to modify. This arrangement would prevent the court from acting in a child’s best interest if there is a dramatic unanticipated change of circumstances, such as child abuse, substance abuse or other situations that could threaten the child’s mental or physical safety.
If you have questions about child custody and visitation in a Kansas divorce or paternity action, we welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and address your concerns. We invite you to call us at (316) 265-7802 or submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.