In divorces and separations involving minor children, custody determinations have to be made by parents or the court. Child custody cases are often very emotional and can become contentious, even when parents are working together in their child’s interests. Parents may simply disagree on what is in the interest of their children, and this can be hard for families. Whether you and your co-parent are creating a parenting plan together outside of court, or custody is being determined by the family court, it’s important to understand how Kansas handles child custody. The more you understand about the process, the more prepared you and your co-parent can be, which can make proceedings easier on the entire family.

Types of Custody

If the court decides on child custody, it will determine a custody schedule based on several factors and primarily on the child’s interests. The two types of custody in Kansas that need to be determined are:

  • Legal Custody: This is a parent’s right and responsibility to make legal, educational, medical, religious, and moral decisions for their children.
  • Residency: This is also called physical custody, and it decides where a child primarily lives.

Each type of custody can be awarded to one or both parents or a combination of the two.

Because the court believes that home stability is important for a child’s well-being, it very frequently assigns residency to one parent and significant visitation rights to the other parent, even when both parents have joint legal custody. Depending on a family’s unique circumstances, however, the court may assign joint residency, where a child spends near equal time with each parent. Joint residency requires significant cooperation and co-parenting from both parties, which is also why it is infrequently awarded.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means that parents have equal parental rights and responsibilities to make decisions about a child’s life. This includes decisions regarding:

  • Where a child goes to school
  • A child’s religious upbringing
  • The medical attention and health care that a child will receive
  • Other important decisions about what a child is able to do

Parents must make these decisions together or consent to such decisions. If parents can’t reach any agreement, the court can make the final choice. The court prefers to assign joint legal custody, as it believes that both parents should have a say over their child’s life.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody means that only one parent makes these decisions for their child. The other parent does not have any say in their child’s education, religion, or healthcare. The court awards sole legal custody when it believes that it is not in a child’s interest for the other parent to have that responsibility. Sole legal custody is usually awarded along with sole residency, with the other parent having visitation rights. In extreme cases, the other parent has limited, supervised, or no visitation rights.

Other Forms of Custody

In some cases, Kansas courts will determine that neither joint nor sole custody is the right fit for a family. Rarely, a court may assign one of the following forms of custody:

  • Divided Custody: This refers to a custody arrangement involving families with multiple children. One child resides primarily with one parent, and the other child lives primarily with the other parent. Both parents have visitation rights with the child they do not have custody of.
  • Non-Parental Custody: Sometimes, the court determines that neither parent is fit to care for a child. The court will then temporarily grant guardianship to a third party, such as the child’s grandparents.

To effectively advocate for your child’s interests and your wishes, it’s helpful to work with a child custody attorney.


Q: What Is the Difference Between Joint Custody and Sole Custody in Kansas?

A: Joint custody means that both parents share parental rights, while sole custody refers to one parent holding parental rights and responsibilities. There are two types of custody in Kansas, and parents may have either joint or sole custody of each. Joint legal custody means that both parents make important decisions for their children, while joint residency means that children split their home life fairly equally between parents. Sole custody means that one parent makes decisions or that children will live with one parent most of the time.

Q: What Are the Grounds for Sole Custody in Kansas?

A: Sole custody may include sole legal custody and/or sole residency. Sole residency is more common, as it may be ideal for a child to live primarily with one parent while the other parent retains significant visitation rights. Sole legal custody is less common. When the court awards sole legal custody to one parent, the other parent has no say in the important decisions about their child’s life. The court only awards this in cases where it would be counter to a child’s interests for that parent to have control over legal, moral, or other decisions.

Q: What Type of Custody Is Right for a Child?

A: Most family courts believe that it is in a child’s interests to spend continued and significant time with both their parents. To allow this, the court usually gives joint legal custody to both parents. Depending on a family’s unique needs, the court may either assign joint residency or sole residency with generous visitation rights for the other parent. The court will only limit the rights of a parent if it is deemed to be in the child’s interests to not spend time with that parent.

Q: How Hard Is It to Get Sole Custody in Kansas?

A: To get sole custody of a child in Kansas, you have to prove to the court why it is not in your child’s interests for the other parent to have residency or legal custody. The court assumes that both parents should have equal say over a child’s life and spend significant time with a child. If you are requesting sole custody, you have the burden of proof. If the other parent is unfit, the court may consider that to be a reason to award sole custody. A parent may be deemed unfit because of an unsafe living environment, a financial or physical inability to care for a child’s basic needs, or a continued substance abuse disorder.

Representation in Child Custody Determinations

An attorney is a useful asset to represent your interests if you are negotiating a parenting plan with your co-parent or need a mediator. An experienced attorney is also essential if your custody case is handled through the family court. At Stange Law Firm, we want to help you find the right solution that supports your family’s future. Contact our team today.