Family court orders are often part of a divorce or separation case, and they are legally binding for all parties involved. Divorce court orders generally include the division of a couple’s marital property, awarding spousal support, deciding child custody, and calculating child support. Parents or ex-spouses must follow these court orders, but Kansas courts recognize that a family’s life can change. Some of these initial court orders may need to be modified to fit a family’s needs.
Both parties can work together, and if they agree on a modification, they can submit the changes for court approval. If parties do not agree on a modification, whoever wants a modification must petition the court. For the court to approve a modification that only one party wants, that person must prove a material and significant change in circumstances.
What Qualifies as a Substantial and Material Change in Circumstances?
Children, parents, and ex-spouses all can see changes in life that require alterations to court orders. The state court works with families to find a solution that fits their new circumstances. Court orders, whether they were created through an alternative dispute resolution or through litigation, are legally binding and can only be modified with court approval. Depending on the court order, a material change may include a change in income, the relocation of one party, or increased financial needs of a parent or child.
For a Kansas court to consider a change in circumstances to be material, it must be significant and continuous. If the change is short-term, the court will likely not approve the modification.
When Can I Modify Spousal Support?
In Kansas, the court does not always have the ability to modify spousal support/maintenance. Before any modification can be made, both of the following must be true:
- Either spouse had a material and substantial change in circumstances that is relevant to spousal maintenance.
- If the modification increases the paying party’s liability, the change can only be made with that party’s consent.
For a change in circumstances to be considered relevant, it is usually a financial change. This may include a change in income or employment, new asset acquisitions, or new financial needs of either party. It may also include the tax consequences of spousal maintenance that were not previously accounted for.
When Can I Modify Child Support?
Sometimes, child support is modified without a material change in circumstances. In Kansas, family courts review child support orders every three years, and either parent can request a modification at this time. This modification is made if it is appropriate to the changing needs of a child.
When a parent wants to modify child support prior to the three-year review, they must prove a substantial and material change in circumstances. This may include:
- The child’s age group has changed, by turning 6 or 12.
- There has been a modification to child custody orders.
- Either parent’s income has permanently changed, and new support calculations would be different by at least 10% based on the new income.
Family courts can only modify future child support payments.
When Can I Modify Child Custody or Visitation?
It is more difficult to modify child custody orders. Kansas courts assume that a stable custody order is in a child’s interests and, therefore, requires more than just a substantial change in circumstances. When only one parent is petitioning for the modification, they must prove that the current custody order is not in a child’s interests, in addition to a change in circumstances. This is a higher standard than only proving that a new custody order is in the child’s interests.
It’s easier to modify visitation orders than custody orders. However, the child’s interests are still the court’s priority. Potential changes that may allow a modification of custody or visitation include:
- The child is in a dangerous or unsafe home environment, resulting from substance abuse, child neglect, or child abuse.
- One parent frequently ignores or interferes with the custody or visitation court orders.
- The child’s changing wishes as they have gotten older.
- One custodial parent can’t provide for the child’s basic needs.
- Either parent would like to relocate.
A child custody attorney can help you determine if you have grounds to modify a child custody or visitation order.
Q: At What Age Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent in Kansas?
A: Only at 18, when they are legally an adult, can a child refuse to see a parent in Kansas. The court listens to the wishes of younger children and places more weight on the wishes of older or more mature children. However, the court is never required to listen to a child’s wishes if they contradict the child’s interests.
Q: How Do I Change My Custody Agreement in Kansas?
A: To modify a custody agreement, the original custody order must no longer be in the child’s interests due to a significant change in circumstances. Reasons may include:
- The child’s wishes or needs have changed as they have gotten older.
- The current custodial parent has created an unsafe home environment for the child.
- One parent with custody can no longer provide the child’s basic needs.
- Either parent wishes to relocate.
- One parent is consistently ignoring the court-ordered parenting plan.
Q: When Can Child Support Be Modified in Kansas?
A: Child support in Kansas may be modified by the court automatically. The court will review the support orders every 3 years and determine if there are changes appropriate to the child’s evolving needs as they grow up. If a parent wishes to modify a support order before the 3-year mark, the parent must prove a significant and material change in circumstances, such as a change in income or an increase in their own financial needs. Either parent can request a modification and an increase or decrease in payments.
Q: What Is Considered a Material Change in Circumstances?
A: A substantial and material change in circumstances is how the court judges whether to approve the modification of a court order. Spousal support or child support order modification relies on financial and employment changes, while child custody and visitation order modification relies on the needs of the child and any significant life changes, like relocation. Any order modification involving children can only be made if it is in the child’s interests.
Contact Stange Law Firm
The attorneys at Stange Law Firm can guide you through the modification process and help prove your family’s change in circumstances to the family court. Contact us today.