In Kansas, both parents have a duty to support their children. Although a court could order one or both parents to make payments, typically the parent without primary residency – meaning, the parent who spends less time with the child (or children) – actually pays support. The parent with primary residency – the one who is the child’s primary caregiver – remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.
In most cases, child support payments continue until the child turns 18, or sometimes 19 if the child is still in high school. Parents could agree to pay for a longer period, too.
You can estimate a basic amount of child support by using Kansas’s child support guidelines. The guidelines are a fee schedule that is based, primarily, on the child’s needs and resources of both parents. Other financial concerns, such as the cost of the child’s health insurance and education, also impact the amount of support. A court, too, could adjust that amount up or down if it is in the child’s best interest to do so.
To use the guidelines, you need to determine both parents’ adjusted gross incomes. To do this, you must collect information on both parents’ incomes for the past three years. For child support purposes, income is all earned and unearned income during a calendar year, regardless of whether it is taxable. It includes salary, wages, commissions, overtime pay, and sometimes bonuses, too. Additionally, it is any royalties, tips, rents, dividends, severance pay, and pensions, among other things.
Although you can exclude some benefits, like means-tested assistance, for example, chances are you still have income even if you are unemployed. For child support purposes, you must include workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability benefits. Additionally, a court or state agency could impute income to the parent without primary residency – in other words, assign an amount – if that parent voluntarily works less or not at all without a good reason for doing so.
Once you have both parents’ gross income, you make deductions to determine the adjusted income for each. Deductions include items like spousal support paid, union dues, and state and federal income taxes.
To help you account for what to include and what you can deduct, and to walk you through the calculations, use the worksheet and instructions (Appendices I and VIII) attached to the guidelines.
Even though a court must presume that the amount of child support calculated by the guidelines is appropriate, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask the judge – before a child support order is in place – to change it. Once you ask to deviate from the guidelines, it is up to you to prove that the adjustment is in your child’s best interest. The judge, however, has the final say on how much payments should increase or decrease.
Some common reasons for adjusting support include income tax considerations, a child’s special needs or extraordinary expenses, and the parents’ overall financial conditions. Keep in mind that even uncommon reasons may justify a change if they bear on your child’s wellbeing.
Once a child support order is in place, you can still ask to modify the payments. You can request a modification at any time if either parent has experienced a change in circumstances that results in either an increase or reduction in income by 10% or more. This tends to happen when a parent loses a job, or perhaps relocates or has a new baby.
You can also request a modification once your child turns 6-years-old or 12-years-old. This is because the guidelines calculate support differently according to a child’s age group.
Even if you do not request a change in your standing child support order, the state’s Department of Child Support Services automatically reviews your case every four years. This agency can make adjustments to child support payments if either parent’s income or the guidelines have changed.
In addition to the links above, you can find answers to frequently asked questions on establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders on the Kansas Department of Children and Families website, which also provides a useful Child Support Services Handbook.
If you would like to read the law on child support, see the Kansas Statutes Sections 23-3001 through 23-3006.