Kansas Governor Signs Domestic Law Reform Legislation
On May 16, 2000, Governor Bill Graves of Kansas signed legislation that taken as a whole, should improve the protection of the relationship children from
non-intact families want and need to both parents. The legislation, House Substitute for SB150, was passed 40-0 in the Senate, and 113-4 in the House.
The changes were very comprehensive, touching on most of the significant issues around child custody and support. Of significance:
Section 61623; The word "visitation" has been changed throughout the many related statutes to "parenting time".
Section 61623; Move away provisions have been tightened to require a minimum of 30 days notice of a custodial parent's desire to move. Such notice is required simply for changing the residential address, not tied to a move out of state or a specific distance, common in many statutes across the country. Emphasis is made to consider the impact the move will have on a child's relationship with the non-moving parent, creating a possible material change of circumstances that could lead to a custody and/or financial child support
Section 61623; Visitation enforcement is enhanced by requiring a judge to take some specific action in the event it is denied or interfered with unreasonably by
the custodial parent. Also passed within the bill was the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Among its many provisions is a requirement for courts receiving a child custody dispute (which would include visitation interference or denial) to be required to hear the matter on "the next judicial day unless impossible,. then the first judicial day possible." Although specifically written for interstate jurisdictional disputes, the law would apply to intrastate matters as well. Kansas was apparently the 19th state to pass this uniform act being pushed by the American Bar Association.
Section 61623; Kansas' parameters for financial child support guidelines development were changed, requiring them to specifically include the ".value of services provided by both parents" (emphasis added). This was a change from existing law only formally considering the custodial parent's contribution. Arguably, this should throw Kansas guidelines out of compliance with state law, and lead to an earlier than planned review.
Section 61623; Parenting plans will now be specifically required at both the initial filing phase and at final orders. Such plans require certain minimums to be
included, such as defining legal custody (Kansas continues to be a joint custody preference state), a time schedule with each parent, and a dispute resolution procedure to be followed prior to going to court.
Several people contributed to successful lobbying of the legislature over the last few years, especially Jim Johnston, formerly of Wichita, and Greg DeBacker
of Topeka. Ron Nelson, a member of the Kansas Bar Association was also instrumental in working on the changes and getting the legislation passed.