The overriding factor or consideration for every court in Kansas is the best interests of a child. The court is required to determine legal custody. Legal custody is a determination of which parent, or ideally both parents, can make the decisions for the child such as where he or she goes to the doctor or dentist, whether to consent to activities, enroll in activities, among the seemingly million other decisions that we make as parents on a regular if not daily basis. Generally, the court’s preference is that both parents jointly make important decisions concerning their children. The alternative to joint legal custody is sole legal custody. This allows one parent to make all of the child’s important decisions. In order for the court to designate a sole legal custodian, the court must find that it is not in the best interests of the child for the parents to have equal rights to make decisions regarding their children. If the court does not order joint legal custody, the court has to make on-the-record findings about why the court granted sole legal custody.
A parent is entitled to reasonable parenting time unless the court finds after a hearing that the parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health. This finding/limitation is contained in K.S.A. 23-3208.
There is also a statute indicating that there is not to be a presumption by the court that simply because a child is young (or an infant) that custody would be best placed with a mother. See K.S.A. 23-3204.
What Factors Does the Court Look at in Deciding Custody? According to K.S.A. 23-3203, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to the following:
- Each parent’s role and involvement with the minor child before and after separation;
- The desires of the child’s parents as to custody or residency;
- The desires of the child if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to provide input as to the child’s custody or residency;
- The age of the child;
- The emotional and physical needs of the child;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community;
- The willingness and ability of each parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the other parent and to allow for continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
- Evidence of domestic abuse, including but not limited to: a) a pattern or history of physically or emotionally abusive behavior or threat thereof used by one person to gain or maintain domination and control over an intimate partner or household member or b) an act of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault;
- The ability of the parties to communicate, cooperate and manage parental duties;
- The school activity schedule of the child;
- The work schedule of the parties;
- The location of the parties’ residences and place of employment;
- The location of the child’s school;
- Whether a parent is subject to registration requirements of the Kansas offender registration act, K.S.A. 22-4901, and amendments thereto, or any similar act in any other state, or under military or federal law;
- Whether a parent has been convicted of abuse of a child, K.S.A. 21-3609, prior to its repeal or K.S.A. 21-5602 and amendments thereto;
- Whether a parent is residing with an individual who is subject to registration requirements of the Kansas offender registration act, K.S.A. 22-4901, and amendments thereto, or any similar act in any other state or under military or federal law; and
- Whether a parent is residing with an individual who has been convicted of abuse of a child, K.S.A. 21-3609, prior to its repeal or K.S.A. 21-5602 and amendments thereto;
In addition to the above-referenced statutory factors, courts have to keep the best interests of the minor children as their primary concern. Thus, through courts and the entry of case law, the following additional factors can be relevant in some circumstances:
- The health problems of a parent or child (See In Re Marriage of Aubuchon, 22 Kan. App. 2d 181, 913 P.2d 221 (1996);
- The stability of the primary caretaker and the status quo (See Legron by Bridger v. Legrone, 238 Kan. 630, 713 P.2d. 221 (1996);
- The quality of affection and feeling for the children by a given parent (See Greene v. Greene);
- Which parent would be better able to advance the moral and ethical upbringing of the children (See Hoffman v. Hoffman, 228 Kan. 290, 613 P.2d 1356 (1980); Merriweather v.. Merriweather, 190 Kan. 598, 376 P.2d 921 (1962).
As you can see, if you are seeking custody in Kansas, there are many factors and considerations that you will need to be prepared to address. It is important to the outcome of your case that you work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who can guide you through how the factors of custody apply to your case. Call Pingel Family Law today to schedule your consultation at (816) 208-8130.