Establishing a Child Custody Arrangement
Child custody agreements are detailed plans covering issues such as parenting time (visitation), and financial support. There are two options divorcing parents can take to reach an arrangement:
You and your spouse can agree on the terms of child custody and present a parenting plan to the court for approval. Kansas law includes a presumption that a custody arrangement agreed upon by both parents is in the best interest of the child, although the court can rule otherwise. Agreeing to a child custody arrangement is the fastest, least expensive, and less painful option, and advice from an attorney can help you keep the conversation productive and on track.
If you and your spouse cannot agree to terms on an agreement, the court will create an agreement or order you to work toward an agreement in mediation. Your family law attorney can help you present your views on establishing what you believe is in the best interest of your children.
Legal Custody vs. Residential Custody
Legal custody refers to the assignment of responsibilities for making decisions regarding education, healthcare, religion, and other major life issues.
Residential custody — also referred to as “physical custody” — involves where the child lives.
Types of Custody
Kansas law includes four types of potential custody arrangements:
- Joint custody means the parents share custody equally. Legal custody is usually awarded jointly. Residential custody may be awarded jointly, although it is difficult unless the parents live in close proximity. Moreover, the court often believes the child’s best interest is served when they live primarily with one parent.
- If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent is not required to consult with the other parent in making major decisions regarding the child. Awarding sole custody to one parent does not mean the other parent does not have visitation rights under a parenting plan.
- Divided custody is rare and applies to families with multiple children. The court could award residential custody of one child to one parent and another child to the other parent. Each parent would then have parenting time with the child who does not live primarily with them.
- The court may award nonparental custody if it believes neither parent is fit to have custody of the child. This is typically awarded on a temporary basis to allow parents time to demonstrate that they can care for their child. Grandparents can also petition the court for visitation rights.
Factors Considered in Determining Custody
In the eyes of the court, the foundation of any child custody agreement is anchored by the child’s best interest, not the best interests of the parents. Among the factors weighed: a parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship with the other parent, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and any evidence of abuse. The court considers the wishes of the parents and of the child if the child is old enough and mature enough to express a preference about where they live.
Modifying an Existing Child Custody Agreement
The needs of children and the circumstances of parents change over time. As they do, a parent can ask the court to review an existing custody agreement. If a parent demonstrates a material change in circumstances that affects the child’s best interests, the court may modify the agreement. Additionally, if a parent has unreasonably denied visitation by the other parent, the court may view it as a material change in circumstances.
Trust an Experienced Law Firm
Raising children is complicated. So is determining how children should be raised when parents divorce. Even if a divorce is relatively amicable, experienced family law attorneys can help you understand all of the factors involved in child custody and advocate for you during the legal process. If the divorce is not amicable, legal counsel is even more important to your future and that of your children.