This is the second part of our two-part blog that provides answers to some of the questions we are asked by parents involved in child custody disputes in Wichita and the surrounding areas of Kansas. Because the circumstances in a custody case can vary dramatically, the best way to get specific information about your unique situation is to speak to an experienced Wichita family law lawyer at the Weber Law Office, P.A.
What factors does a Kansas court consider when determining the best interest of a child?
Kansas law sets forth a range of factors that the judge must consider when determining the best interest of the child. However, judges can consider other relevant factors besides the factors below. The factors the judge must consider in a divorce or paternity case include:
- Wishes of the child
- Parents’ preferences
- Evidence of domestic violence against the other parent
- Adjustment of the child to school, community and home
- Child abuse convictions involving either of the parents or members of their household
- Parents or household members subject to sex offender registration
- Periods that the child was cared for by a non-parent
- Relationships and interaction with members of each household
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage a continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
Can a parent modify a residential custody order if he or she is unsatisfied with the result?
While a parent can file a motion for a change of custody, the best approach is to diligently pursue orders you can live with in the initial divorce or paternity judgment. Once a judgment has been entered, the process of changing custody can be far more difficult than obtaining favorable custody orders in the original judgment. Generally, the judge will not consider modifying custody in the best interest of the child unless the parent seeking a change establishes a “material change in circumstances.” The types of circumstances that meet this standard generally will involve significant parental fitness issues involving the residential parent, such as chemical dependency, child abuse or chronic neglect. When a young child becomes a teenager and wishes to change custody, this also might be sufficient to constitute a material change of circumstances. However, family law judges are not anxious to change the residential custody of children who are adjusting well to the status quo, so changing custody usually depends on proving serious parenting issues involving the residential parent.
Will the court agree to no visitation (i.e. no parental access) if the other parent is not fit?
While a judge does exercise this authority, it will only be used in extreme situations where parental access would pose a serious danger to the welfare of the child. Even in cases of substance dependency by a parent, the court might be more inclined to order supervised visitation. In situations where a judge does order supervised visitation, the parent subject to this restriction can petition the court to make the visitation unsupervised once the issues concerning the court have been satisfactorily resolved.
Is my spouse correct that attorneys will only subject our kids to a more contentious and stressful divorce?
The notion that lawyers fight tenaciously like “junk yard dogs” is more a product of Hollywood movies than reality in Kansas divorce proceedings. Family law judges and lawyers are very aware of the importance to amicable win-win solutions that shield children from unnecessary animosity and conflict. Because family lawyers handle hundreds of child custody cases, they have experience crafting mutually acceptable custody arrangements that promote effective communication. Child custody attorneys often have a fairly good sense of what a judge might order, so they can protect your interest and avoid battles over superfluous issues. Further, many parties that are unrepresented fail to adequately address issues in their custody agreement that later cause unnecessary disputes and force the parties to return to court to enforce or modify the custody orders.
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 appointment.