Facts About Family Law

Facts About Family Law in Kansas and Missouri

Information gathering
Documents
Before filing for a divorce, dissolution of marriage, separate maintenance, annulment, or modification of child support or, maintenance, your lawyer will need an accurate financial picture of your family. Documents to be gathered for review before filing include recent personal and/or business tax return(s) with W-2's, 1099's, evidence of income, recent earnings statements, a recent credit report, credit card statements and bank, credit union and other financial institution (for example brokerage account) statements, and a list of assets, including investments and retirement benefits or accounts, and debts. Your lawyer will explain what other documents may be needed for analysis, and what may be requested by your lawyer from your spouse or by your spouse's lawyer from you.

Financial analysis
In both Kansas and Missouri, before a divorce, dissolution of marriage, separate maintenance, annulment, or support matter may be presented to the court for trial or financial orders (for example temporary, or modification of, child support or maintenance), an affidavit explaining the income, debts, and property of the parties is usually required to be filed with the court. This information will also help your lawyer have an accurate view of your financial situation.

Children
Parenting plans
Both Kansas and Missouri require parties in family law cases in which children are involved to file "parenting plans," that is, to tell the court what arrangements they think are best for their children. These plans include: visitation (Missouri)/parenting time (Kansas) arrangements (which may include evenings, weekends, holidays, and special events); what custody (for example joint with primary residential placement, shared, sole, or non-parental) they believe is best; who will pay for health care expenses not covered by insurance; who will provide insurance for the children and at whose expense; who will provide visitation/parenting time transportation; access to school and medical records; and restrictions on moving from one residence to another without notifying the other parent. They may also include child support provisions. Parenting plans generally must be filed when a divorce, dissolution, separate maintenance, annulment, or custody/visitation/parenting time case is filed. In many case, they are modified before being submitted to the court for approval at the end of a case.

Mediation
Mediation, by a mediator agreed to by the parties or appointed by the court, may be required by the court before a custody, parenting time, or visitation dispute is presented to the court for decision. In some counties, it is required by local rule before the case can be submitted to the court.

Child support
Both Kansas and Missouri have child support guidelines for the court to follow when establishing child support. The court, in applying guidelines, considers, among other things, the incomes of the parties, the cost of day care, the cost of insuring the children, and the extraordinary expenses (for example private school and special needs) of the children. Before a case is filed, documents providing this information should be available for review by the lawyers and court. Kansas and Missouri both require the filing of financial affidavits and a child support worksheet that makes the support calculations under the guidelines, before the court will enter child support orders. Child support guidelines were last modified in Kansas effective January 1, 2016 and may be found at Kansas Judicial Branch - Child Support Guidelines. The Missouri child support guidelines may be found by following this link.

Parenting classes
Many counties in Kansas and Missouri, including Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, and Jackson (both Western and Eastern), require parents to attend at least one single-session parenting class before the court will authorize a decree or judgment to be filed, and may require such attendance before a matter will be heard by the court. This requirement may be included in orders initially entered by the court when a case is filed, or may be ordered at any time between the time of filing and the time a judgment, order or decree is filed.

Property division
Neither Kansas nor Missouri is a "community property" state. They are considered "equitable distribution" jurisdictions, which means the court may divide property (both real estate and personal property, which includes household goods and furnishings, money, investment and bank accounts, stocks, bonds, cars, and anything else the parties own) in a fair, just and equitable manner. The law does not require the courts in either state to divide property equally. The law in Kansas, while recognizing the concept of marital and non-marital property, does not require the court to set aside to a party "non-marital" property. The law in Missouri generally does.

It is not necessary to prove fault in either Kansas or Missouri in order to establish grounds for divorce, dissolution, separate maintenance, or annulment of marriage. In Kansas, if the court believes the parties are incompatible, it will grant a divorce or separate maintenance for this reason. Annulment grounds are different and will be explained by your lawyer. In Missouri, if the court believes the parties have irreconcilable differences, the court will grant a dissolution of marriage or separate maintenance for this reason. In Kansas, fault may be considered in exceptional circumstances in determining maintenance or a division of property, but these circumstances, as a matter of case law, are limited. In Missouri, fault is one of many grounds the court may consider in determining a division of property or maintenance, formerly "alimony."

Some counties have guidelines for determining maintenance. They are not binding on the courts, as child support guidelines generally are, and while helpful as guidelines, are not automatically or necessarily followed by the courts.

Paternity and cohabitation
Either parent who has neither been married to nor lived together with the other parent may invoke paternity laws in Kansas or Missouri to establish paternity, custody, parenting time/visitation and child support rights.

Any former cohabitant may bring an action in Kansas or Missouri to have his or her rights in property accumulated during the cohabitation determined.

How long does it take?
In Kansas, there is a minimum 60-day waiting period between the time a case for divorce or separate maintenance is filed and the time the court can hear it, unless an emergency is declared by the court. In Missouri, there is a minimum 30-day waiting period between the time a dissolution of marriage or separate maintenance case is filed and the time a court can hear it. How much time beyond this a case remains on the docket generally depends on how busy the division to which the case is assigned is, and how complicated the case is.

Child support modification and custody/visitation/parenting time cases are not governed by mandatory waiting periods. The more complicated the parties' circumstances, the longer they may take to be resolved.