The Best Interests of the Child Standard & The Presumption That Parental Agreement Reflects the Child's Best interests:
In Kansas, the "best interests of the child" standard is used to determine questions about legal custody, residency, visitation, and parenting time, Neither parent is presumed to have a vested interest in the custody or residency of any child, regardless of the age of the child. It is presumed, however, that any agreement between the parents about custody, residency, and parenting time is in the best interests of the child. In this way, parents are encouraged to develop their own parenting schedule that meets the needs of the child as well as the demands of the parents' lives and schedules. Only the most difficult custody disputes go to a full-scale trial before a judge. The judge uses the eighteen factors outlined in K.S.A. 23-3203 and any other evidence relevant to the child's needs, or either parent's ability to meet those needs, to make a decision. While a trial may be necessary in certain kinds of cases, it is often difficult to develop the best parenting plan through litigation.
Types of Legal Custody (Joint, Sole, & Shared):
Most often, Kansas courts prefer to award both parents joint custody of the child. This allows both parents to be involved in major decisions about the child. Sole custody arrangements are possible. In order to award a parent sole custody of a child, however, the court must include on the record specific findings of fact upon which the sole custody award is based. Shared custody arrangements are also possible, but these arrangements are usually reserved for families where both parents can consistently place the child's needs first, where parents can agree on what is in the best interests of the child, and where parents can cooperate without significant conflict.
Residential Parent & Parenting Plans:
In Kansas, courts both identify a "residential" parent with whom the child primarily resides and develop a parenting plan or scheduling outlining the child's time with each parent. Some courts have developed "guidelines" to assist parents in developing a parenting plan. Parenting plans must address parenting time during the school year and summer months, as well as with whom the child will celebrate holidays and other important family events (e.g., birthdays, etc.). See Shawnee County Family Law Guidelines and Johnson County Family Law Guidelines. For most families, these schedules should serve as a beginning point for designing the plan that meets the child's needs and the schedules of the family members. "Guidelines" are not binding schedules unless ordered by the court.
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Topeka, KS 66611
Phone: (785) 267-0025
Fax: (785) 266-6546