Frequent and continuing contact between a child and both of his parents is of great importance after divorce. This contact is known as visitation in Kansas, and knowing what your rights are as a parent will help ensure your relationship with your child continues after divorce. However, in some cases, the courts will limit a child's contact with one or both parents to ensure the safety and welfare of the child.
For practical reasons, and to reduce disruption in the child's life after divorce, a child often resides primarily with one parent in Kansas. The other parent typically has some overnights with the child, which might include weekends and holidays. In this case, both parents are said to have joint residential custody of the child. If parents live in close proximity and have an amicable and cooperative relationship, the court may be willing to grant what is known as a shared residential custody arrangement. This term means that both parents enjoy equal overnights or near equal blocks of time with the child.
Courts in Kansas also have the option of ordering sole residential custody to one parent. This is often the case when the other parent has either been absent from the child's life or has some mental illness preventing him from being able to adequately provide for the child's needs. Although the parent without custody does not have the child live with him, that parent is usually provided some access to his child through court-ordered visitation. In Kansas, the court can defer to the parents to work out a reasonable schedule for visitation, or a judge can fashion an order spelling out the terms for contact.
In cases where the potential for harm to the child is great, such as if a parent has a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, the court may deny that parent access completely or order supervised visitation. Supervised visitation means that contact with the child is done in the presence of another adult, such as a social worker or court officer.
Once a court has ordered that a parent have reasonable visitation rights, the other parent must respect these rights. If the parties cannot reach agreement regarding a schedule for contact, the court may order that the parties attempt to reach a resolution through mediation. If the residential parent refuses to abide by the agreement or court-ordered schedule, a judge can hold that person in contempt, which can result in loss of parenting rights as well as sanctions, such as paying the other parent's attorneys and cost of mediation.