Custody is one of the most critical legal issues for any parent who is divorced or divorcing in Wichita, KS. When married parents divorce, the most essential part of their divorce proceedings pertains to determining custody rights and parental responsibilities over their children, including each parent’s financial obligations to supporting their kids. In most divorce cases, parents will share custody to some extent, either jointly with shared parenting time and equal legal custody, or one parent may have a greater share of custody than the other. However, in some situations, a parent may lose custody due to their behavior. It is also possible for a parent to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights under certain conditions.

What Is the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Whenever married parents divorce, part of their divorce agreement will include an Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities. This agreement, certified by the Kansas family court, will outline each parent’s custody rights and support obligations to their kids. When both parents are deemed fit for parental rights and can financially support their children, the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities will outline the custody limitations for both parents. This includes legal custody (the ability to make decisions on a child’s behalf) and physical custody (where the children live and spend their time).

Most divorcing parents end up with joint custody agreements, especially when they live separately near one another, their children’s schools, and the medical providers who see to their children. Depending on the parents’ availability, the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities will dictate how much time the children spend with each parent. For example, in a joint custody agreement, the court may decide that alternating weeks with each parent is most suitable, or the court may assign blocks of time throughout the year to each parent.

Regarding child support obligations, the Kansas family court upholds that both parents must contribute equally to financially supporting their children. The court will assess each parent’s support obligation and then assign child support responsibilities based on each parent’s custody rights. For example, if one parent obtains more significant physical custody than the other, the other parent will likely pay child support to the parent with greater physical custody. The court will assess multiple factors to determine the fairest and most reasonable support and custody agreement for the divorcing parents’ children.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Unfortunately, not every parent will want to be involved in their child’s life. However, a parent cannot simply opt out of their parental responsibilities, even if they are willing to let the child’s other parent assume complete custody. Voluntary termination of parental rights is only possible when a stepparent is willing to assume the role of an adoptive parent over the child. For example, one parent assumes full custody of their child, and the other parent pays child support with minimal or no involvement in the child’s life. The custodial parent later remarries, and their new spouse is willing to adopt the child.

In this situation, the Wichita family court would conduct a review process to ensure that the adoption would suit the child’s best interests. First, the court will assign an investigator to interview the adoptive parent, inspect the couple’s home, and ensure the adoptive parent presents no danger to the child. After this investigation concludes and the court approves the adoption, the child’s noncustodial biological parent must submit a signed form that acknowledges the relinquishment of their parental rights, and the custodial parent’s new spouse can legally adopt the child.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Involuntary termination of parental rights is possible when a child’s parent breaks the law in certain ways or commits any form of domestic violence against the child or the child’s other parent. In these situations, the child’s custodial parent must petition the Wichita family court to terminate the other parent’s parental rights. It is also possible for involuntary termination of parental rights as part of sentencing in a criminal trial.

It’s important to note that involuntary termination of parental rights will eliminate the at-fault parent’s rights to custody and visitation but will not eliminate their financial obligations for child support. If the family court decides to involuntarily terminate a parent’s custody and visitation rights, the parent will still be responsible for paying child support to the child’s custodial parent. The only way they may be released from this obligation is if they can prove they cannot meet their child support obligations due to forces beyond their control or if the child’s custodial parent remarries and the stepparent is willing to adopt the child, assuming financial responsibility for them.

Regaining Parental Rights After Termination

If you have lost your parental rights through involuntary termination, it’s essential to understand that it is likely impossible for you to regain them. Only nine states in the US uphold legal provisions for reinstatement of parental rights once they have been involuntarily terminated. Furthermore, these reinstatement provisions are highly regulated and very complex to ensure child safety. In most cases, reinstatement is only possible on a minimal basis once a child reaches a certain age and they express a desire to reestablish parental ties.

How to Secure Fair Custody Rights

If you are preparing to divorce and you and your spouse have children, custody is likely the first concern on your mind as you prepare to legally end your marriage. Unfortunately, navigating this situation can be incredibly difficult due to the emotional weight of the situation, and it’s vital to have legal counsel you can trust if you want to secure a fair and reasonable Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities.

Your attorney can help you navigate the most challenging aspects of the divorce process with confidence. Regardless of whether you intend to pursue alternative dispute resolution and mediate your divorce or if you are bracing for an intense court battle, the final decisions pertaining to child custody and child support will come down to the discretion of a Wichita family court judge. If you want to approach your divorce and custody determination with confidence, speak with an experienced Wichita divorce attorney as soon as possible.