During a divorce or separation of parents, the family judge sets several court orders that outline child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. A court order is legally binding and needs to be followed. This is true whether the court order was created through litigation or a court-approved mediated agreement. If life circumstances change after a divorce or separation, there are ways to alter these court orders. Both parents and children go through changes that may require different support or custody. Kansas courts understand that every family goes through changes in life and works to ensure that family court orders reflect those changes.
When both parties agree on a modification, they can make the change and then submit it to the family court judge for approval. If only one party wants to make a modification, and the other doesn’t, the modification must be made through court. In that case, the petitioning party must usually prove a material change in circumstances to have the order modified.
Understanding a Material Change in Circumstance
Whether a material change in circumstance affects a court order depends on the order that is being modified. Depending on the order, a change in circumstance may include:
- One party’s change in income
- A child getting older and their changing needs
- One party moving
Kansas law says that a material change in circumstance must be a continuing change and substantial enough to warrant a modification. Modification of any family law order is dependent on the unique situation.
Modifying Spousal Maintenance
In Kansas, modification of spousal maintenance can be complicated. Kansas courts do not always have the power to change spousal maintenance. The following must be true for the court to modify maintenance orders:
- There is a material and relevant change in circumstances for one or both spouses.
- If maintenance payments are being increased, or their payment liability is being accelerated, these changes can’t be made without the consent of the party making payments.
Because spousal maintenance relies on the financial income of each party, it will generally be changes in income or expenses that alter maintenance. A material change may include:
- Change in employment, such as loss of a job or a promotion with an increased salary
- Significant change in income
- Tax consequences of spousal maintenance
- Changes in property acquisition by either spouse
- Changes in financial needs of either spouse
A reduction in spousal maintenance can be made without the liable party’s consent, but not increases in maintenance.
Modifying Child Support
Child support can be modified in Kansas for two reasons:
- It has been reviewed three years since the order was granted or modified to determine if a modification is appropriate.
- A parent files a motion to modify due to a substantial change in circumstances.
If a parent wishes to request a modification, and it has been three years since the last modification or the creation of the order, no substantial change needs to be shown. A substantial change in circumstances in Kansas includes:
- The child has turned 6 or 12.
- Either or both parents’ permanent change in income would alter the support order by 10% or more.
Changes to child support depend on the child’s needs.
Modifying Child Custody and Visitation
Family court tends to prefer stable custody orders unless it is not in the child’s interests. It is the job of the petitioning parent to prove that a current custody order is no longer in the child’s interest. Visitation is more flexible, but your child’s interests are still a priority. A change that may prove that a modification is necessary includes:
- The child has gotten older, and their wishes have changed.
- There is an unsafe living environment for the child with the custodial parents, such as substance use, neglect, or abuse.
- One parent has consistently ignored the guidelines of a parenting plan.
- The custodial parent is no longer able to provide for a child’s care and support.
- A parent is no longer available for the same parenting schedule.
- Either parent decides to relocate.
The court will also take into consideration how each parent conducts themselves when making joint decisions.
Q: What Are Examples of Substantial Change?
A: A substantial change depends on the order you want to have modified. It may include:
- A change in income
- Changes in asset acquisition
- A loss of employment
- Changes in the financial requirements of either party or a child
Modifying child support depends on the child’s financial needs or a period of 3 years passing, while custody modifications are made based on the child’s interests.
Q: At What Age Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent in Kansas?
A: A child can only refuse to see their parents when they are a legal adult at 18. Before children reach that age, the court will listen to a child’s wishes regarding visitation and custody. The closer a child is to the age of 18, the more likely a court is to use their wishes when crafting a parenting schedule. However, the court is never required to listen to the child’s wishes, and the court still holds the child’s interests above anything else.
Q: What Makes a Parent Unfit in Kansas?
A: Under Kansas law, the court will determine if a parent is unfit based on factors such as:
- A physical or mental inability to care for a child’s mental, physical, and emotional needs
- Unsafe, neglectful, or cruel conduct, including mental, physical, or sexual abuse toward a child
- A continuing substance use disorder that prevents a parent from caring for their child
- A felony conviction and imprisonment
- An unwillingness to adjust to the needs of a child
- The failure of reasonable efforts to rehabilitate a family by appropriate agencies
A parent who is deemed unfit can have their parental rights terminated.
Q: How Often Can Child Support Be Modified in Kansas?
A: The court will review a child support order every three years to determine if a modification is necessary to meet the child’s needs and other appropriate changes. If a parent wants a modification sooner, they can petition for modification. They must show a substantial change in circumstance to modify child support before those 3 years have passed.
Modifying Family Court Orders
If you need a court order modification, an attorney can review your situation to see if you are eligible for one. Contact Stange Law Firm today.