The recent substantial increase in unemployment and economic downturn caused by Covid-19 present challenges to everyone, including many relating to family law matters. In particular, child support issues affect numerous individuals and families. During this stressful time, parents with child support obligations often have difficulty making the required payments. That shortfall puts substantial pressure on the recipients, who often are single parents relying heavily on support payments to make ends meet. Our child support attorneys in the family law practice at Sloan Law Firm explain to clients how Kansas child support law applies in these circumstances and assist our clients with support issues that arise.
Kansas law imposes an obligation on both parents to support a child financially. In situations where the parents are not together, a court may order one parent to pay child support to the other parent to ensure that the child has sufficient financial support. Generally, a court orders the parent with less physical custody to pay child support to the other parent.
In addition to statutory provisions, complex state court guidelines apply to child support cases. The guidelines provide factors for the court to consider in making a child support determination. The considerations include the financial resources of both parents and the child, as well as the physical and emotional condition of the child. In a child support case, both parents benefit from representation by an experienced Kansas child support attorney to ensure that all relevant factors are brought to the judge’s attention.
If a parent does not make the payments required by a court child support order, the laws and guidelines provide enforcement procedures and mechanisms for collecting child support from the obligated parent. Withholding income, garnishing bank accounts, and liens on personal property are among the available enforcement processes.
In addition, a non-compliant parent can be held in contempt of court and imprisoned for failure to satisfy a support obligation. Civil fines may be imposed. Failure to pay child support without a lawful excuse also may result in a felony criminal charge. Potential penalties include imprisonment.
After a court issues a child support order, the support obligation can only be changed by a modification of the court order. Even if the parent with the support obligation changes jobs or becomes unemployed, the change in income does not affect the amount of support the parent owes. The only way to reduce the amount owed, other than when a child changes residency or ages out of child support obligation, is to file a motion with the court to request modification of the order.
Specific statutory provisions and guidelines apply to court modification of child support. For a modification request filed within three years of the date of the most recent order, a court may modify support only if the requesting parent demonstrates a “material change in circumstances” since the last order. If the modification request is filed more than three years after the most recent order, a material change showing is not required.
Generally, a change in income that results in adjustment of the support amount by ten percent (10%) or more constitutes a material change that justifies modification of a support order. Changes in circumstances also occur when a child reaches the age of seven and the age of 16. The support obligation terminates when the child becomes 18 years old.
If a motion results in modification, the court may only make the change retroactive only to the first day of the month following filing of the modification motion. The judge cannot alter unpaid past support obligations. On account of that limitation, a parent who experiences a material change in circumstances should pursue a modification motion as soon as possible after a change occurs. Consulting with an experienced child support attorney is the best way to evaluate the circumstances and ensure that the modification request is properly and expeditiously submitted.
For parents experiencing child support issues, an important caution about visitation is necessary. Under Kansas law, child support and visitation are two completely separate issues. The rules do not permit a parent to deny visitation on the basis of the other parent’s failure to pay child support. Similarly, a non-custodial parent is prohibited from withholding child support payments when the custodial parent denies visitation rights.
If visitation issues arise at the same time as child support issues, a separate motion to enforce visitation must be pursued. Kansas courts address child support and visitation matters completely separately.
If you are a parent experiencing difficulties with making or receiving child support payments, or you are a parent seeking to establish a child support obligation, consulting with an experienced Kansas child support lawyer provides your best chance for successfully addressing the issues. While you can file forms and attempt to represent yourself, effective representation in a child support case requires knowledge of the applicable laws and guidelines, as well as familiarity with local court rules, practices, and policies. Proceeding without the assistance of a capable attorney likely will not end in a result that is as favorable as the outcome a lawyer can achieve for you.
Regardless of what issues you face concerning child support, our family law attorneys at Sloan Law Firm are here to help you. We assist clients throughout Kansas and invite you to contact us by calling (785) 357-6311 or using our online contact form.