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 residential custody—meaning, the parent who spends less time with the child(ren)—actually pays support.
The parent with primary residential custody—meaning 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, which are based primarily on the child's financial needs and the parents' resources.
Other financial concerns, such as the cost of the child's health insurance and education, may also impact the amount of support. A court can adjust a support amount down or up if doing so would be in the child's best interest. Notably, Kansas' child support guidelines changed in January 2020 pursuant to Administrative Order 307.
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's taxable.
A parent's income includes his or her salary, wages, commissions, overtime pay, and sometimes bonuses, too. It also includes any royalties, tips, rents, dividends, severance pay, and military pensions. See Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-3002 (2020).
Even you you're unemployed, you are still considered to have an income for child support purposes. Additionally, a court or state agency could impute (assign) income to the parent without primary residential custody if that parent voluntarily works less or not at all without a good reason for doing so. This means a judge can increase a parent's child support obligation.
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.
For more information on calculating child support, you should review the Kansas Judicial Branch website's section on Child Support.
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 to change it. The parent asking for a deviation from the child support guidelines must prove that the adjustment is in his or her 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 condition. Keep in mind that even uncommon reasons may justify a change if they will support or improve your child's well being.
Once a judge has issued a child support order, the obligor parent (parent ordered to pay support) must pay support exactly as ordered by the court. Often a judge will leave the order open-ended as to how payments must be made, but it's easy to pay child support in this digital age. You can pay child support with cash, a check, direct deposit, transfer, money order, or by using payment apps such as Venmo or Zelle. However, if your ex is not making support payments, you can contact the Kansas Child Support Services office for help at 1-888-757-2445.
Once a child support order is in place, you can ask a court to modify the payments, meaning increase or decrease the amount. You can request a modification at any time if either parent has experienced a material 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 gets a new, higher paying one), relocates, or has a new baby.
You can also request a modification once your child turns six and again when your child turns 12 years old. This is because the Kansas support 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 Kansas 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.
For more information on the issues surrounding child support in Kansas, visit our Kansas Divorce and Family Law Section.
If you would like to read the law on child support, see Kansas Statutes Sections 23-3001 through 23-3006.