Child custody & Parenting time
Perhaps the most difficult challenge in a divorce or paternity case is determining a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children and supports the relationship of the children with each parent. The standard for determining custody and parenting time is the best interest of the child. Kansas courts have 18 statutory factors found at K.S.A. 23-3203, which a court shall consider when making decisions regarding custody and parenting time. You can review the factors here: https://www.ksrevisor.org/statutes/chapters/ch23/023_032_0003.html
Often a case turns on the 8th factor: the willingness and ability of each parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the other parent and to allow for a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. While this may be the most important factor, it is often the most difficult for parents involved in an emotional breakup to embrace. Melissa has significant experience helping parents navigate a new coparenting relationship while experiencing feelings of sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, and more that occur when a romantic relationship ends. Parents need help transitioning their relationship from an intimate partnership to more of a civil business-type relationship. Melissa has experience working with parents as an attorney, mediator, conciliator, parenting coordinator, and guardian ad litem in navigating these challenges.
Custody & Parenting Time FAQs
When they are 18. One of the factors the court will consider in determining child custody and parenting time is “the desires of a child of sufficient age and maturity as to the child’s custody or residency.” Kansas law does not define when a child is of “sufficient age.” However, if a judge does speak to a child, then the child’s stated desires will be only one of many factors the court will consider. In short, children never get to decide where they live because that decision is an adult decision that will be made by adults, whether it is the parents or a judge. Children should never be told they can decide and should never be asked to make the decision.
The first question I always ask when posed this question is: What does full custody mean to you? What I have found is that it means different things to different people. In Kansas, legal custody means the ability to share in decision making and access to information. It has nothing to do with where a child resides or how much parenting time each parent has. By far the standard is joint legal custody. Sole legal custody is rare and typically only occurs when one parent is unable to make decisions due to being absent, incarcerated, or due to serious mental health or substance abuse issues.
While there are somewhat typical parenting plans, the specifics of any plan or schedule can greatly vary depending on the needs of the family. The great thing about mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes is that the family can be more creative and find a schedule that meets the needs of the family rather than having a schedule dictated by a judge that is not familiar with the family and may order something that does not work as well as what the parties can come up with themselves.
Almost always. I have participated in mediations as an attorney and as a mediator where neither party thought there was any chance that they would come to an agreement and, to everyone’s surprise, they did! Even if mediation does not result in a written agreement between the parties there are some benefits to mediation. Attorneys and parties can learn more about what they might face in court. Additionally, the parties may be able to agree on some of the issues, thus reducing time in court as well as costs. Mediation is the parent’s opportunity to determine their own destiny rather than have a stranger decide it for them.