Although a divorce or paternity action reflects the end of the parents' relationship, in most cases, the parents must continue to work together to raise their child or children. If you are facing a child custody case in Kansas or Missouri, it is important to understand how the process works and how terms regarding custody are used by judges and attorneys. Custody does not necessarily have anything to do with which parent the children primarily reside. Custody primarily deals with the relationship between the parents, rather than the relationship between a parent and a child.
Kansas and Missouri define legal custody as the decision making rights and responsibilities for the children as they relate to major decisions about the child's health, education, and religious training. Joint legal custody is presumed to be in the child's best interest. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities with respect to their minor children and that neither parent's rights are superior. Joint legal custody means both parents will have access to the child's medical and school records.
Sole legal custody is not preferred in Kansas or Missouri and is ordered only in highly unusual circumstances. Sole legal custody is generally only ordered in situations where it is by agreement of the parents, demonstrated abuse of the child by one parent, and when there is such a high level of conflict between the parents that one of the parents must be designated as the primary decision maker.
Physical custody refers to the amount of time the children are under the care and supervision of each parent. Kansas and Missouri differ in the description of physical custody arrangements. Kansas uses terms such as "primary residency" and "primary residential parent". Missouri no longer uses these terms, but one parent address will be designated for educational and mailing purposes.
Shared residency means that the children spend equal, or nearly equal time with each parent. Missouri has passed legislation that encourages shared parenting time. Judges will not order this type of physical custody unless the parents can establish that they can effectively cooperate with each other and co-parent the child.
The best parenting plans are those worked out between the parents. Your work schedule and the children's activity schedule will determine what parenting schedule will work best. A parenting plan should include the schedule for regular parenting time along with how holidays will be shared. To be sure that your parenting plan covers all of the necessary issues, you should have an attorney review it prior to it being approved.
Modifying Custody Orders
Even after the initial case, the court retains jurisdiction to modify matters related to child custody. The court where an order was entered regarding child custody maintains "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" to modify court orders. If a child and both parents have moved to a new state, it may be possible to transfer jurisdiction to a different state.
If you believe a prior order needs to be modified, a motion will need to be filed with the court. This motion will describe the change in circumstances that have occurred since the prior order was entered that establish why the order is no longer appropriate.
Contact a Kansas and Missouri Child Custody Attorney
Do you have questions about child custody issues case in Kansas or Missouri? Contact Rundberg Law, LLC for a consultation.