Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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When Gregory Papineau and Jeri Stephenson divorced, Papineau was ordered to pay monthly child support. In 2010, Papineau became disabled and applied for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits for himself and his dependents. In 2012, the Social Security Administration began providing those benefits. Papineau subsequently filed a motion to modify his child support obligation, asking that he be reimbursed or receive a credit for past child-support payments. Specifically, Papineau argued that his children received duplicative payments, both of which satisfied his child support obligations for the period between his application for and the approval of the SSDI derivative benefits. Both the district court and the Court of Appeals determined that Papineau was not entitled to a credit, a reimbursement, or an offset. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a district court may grant a credit to a child-support obligor who is current on child support when a lump-sum payment of accumulated SSDI derivative benefits duplicates the obligor’s support payment, and that credit may be used to offset other support obligations imposed on the obligor; (2) alternatively, a district court may fashion some other remedy permitted under applicable federal statutes and regulations; and (3) because the district court did not recognize the extent of its discretionary powers, this case must be remanded. View "In re Marriage of Stephenson & Papineau" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) claimed that Father owed $173,654 in child support back payments and was granted an income withholding order in that amount. SRS sought to enforce the district court’s order by registering it in Texas, where Father was living. The Texas Attorney General subsequently filed a notice of registration of a foreign support order and sought its enforcement, requesting judgment in the amount of $133,110 - representing the principal child support as of April 1, 2011 - with no accrued interest. Father paid the judgment in its entirety. Back in Kansas, Mother sought an order determining the amount of interest owed on the arrearages as of October 14, 2011. The district court concluded that Mother’s claim for interest was barred by the res judicata effect of the Texas judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Mother and the Texas Attorney General were not the “same party” for res judicata purposes, and therefore, Mother’s claims were not barred by the doctrine of res judicata; and (2) Mother was entitled to appellate attorney fees and costs. Remanded to the district court for a calculation of the postjudgment interest owed on the child support arrearages. View "Cain v. Jacox" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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Plaintiff sued Defendant, seeking determinations related to paternity and custody and an equitable distribution of the parties’ jointly acquired assets. The district court referred the matter to a special master. The court adopted the master’s findings and conclusions and entered judgment on the master’s report without hearing evidence. The judgment included an order that Defendant pay Plaintiff a sum representing the minor child’s unreimbursed medical expenses. The court later entered additional orders, including its decision to make its own determination regarding the unreimbursed medical expenses. Defendant appealed, raising several allegations of error. The court of appeals affirmed and granted Plaintiff’s request for appellate costs and attorney fees. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and dismissed the appeal, holding that the district court did not enter a final, appealable order, having left unresolved the unreimbursed medical expenses issue, and therefore, the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction when it affirmed the district court and entered an attorney fees award. View "Kaelter v. Sokol" on Justia Law

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Mother was the biological mother of Jocelyn and Justine. Father was the biological father of Justine and acted as Jocelyn’s father from the time she was born. After the parties separated, Father filed a petition requesting residential custody of Justine and a continuing relationship with Jocelyn. After a trial, the district court granted residential custody of Justine to Zachary and granted residential custody of Jocelyn to Justine. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion by basing its decision to award residential custody of Justine to Zachary on a misapplication of Kan. Stat. Ann. 23-3207(b). Remanded. View "Cheney v. Poore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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During his marriage to Wife, Husband, an attorney, drafted a “Post-Nuptial Agreement Dissolution of the Marriage” that reserved most of the assets for Wife. Husband later petitioned for divorce. Wife filed a motion seeking a ruling that the agreement was valid and controlled disposition of the real and personal property in the dispute. The district court concluded that the agreement was void because of the lopsided property division and allocated the couple’s assets based on the court’s determination of what was just and reasonable. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the parties’ agreement was controlled by Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1610(b)(3), which requires a separation agreement to be incorporated into the divorce decree if the court finds it valid, just and equitable; and (2) the district court erred when it determined that the agreement was void as against public policy under the rationale that it “encouraged” divorce, as that common-law analysis was abrogated when the legislature adopted section 60-1610(b)(3)’s “just and equitable” requirement. Remanded for a more detailed review into whether the agreement is just and equitable under section 60-1610(b)(3). View "In re marriage of Traster" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Attorney General alleged that the Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial District exceeded his authority and contravened Kansas law by issuing an administrative order permitting marriage licenses to be issued to same sex couples. The Attorney General sought an order directing the Chief Judge and clerk of the district court to immediately cease from issuing marriage applications or licenses to same gender couples and an order vacating the Judge’s administrative order. The Supreme Court declined to grant the relief sought, as the Attorney General's right to relief on the merits was not clear, but granted the Attorney General’s alternative request for a temporary stay of the Chief Judge’s administrative order insofar as the order allows issuance of marriage licenses. The Court then requested additional briefing on the pending issues of whether the Chief Judge possessed authority to issue the administrative order and whether the interpretations and applications of the United States Constitution by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals are supreme and modify any Kansas state ban on same-sex marriage. View "State v. Moriarty" on Justia Law

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A baby was born premature on a city street in Wichita. A child in need of care (CINC) petition was filed, and custody of the baby was granted to the Secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). Foster Parents accepted the baby as their foster child, and Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. SRS then initiated efforts for Maternal Cousins to adopt the child. Foster Parents, however, also wanted to adopt the child. The CINC court concluded that SRS had failed to make reasonable efforts or progress towards the child’s adoption and granted Foster Parents custody of the child with permission to adopt. The district court approved Foster Parents’ adoption of the child. Maternal Cousins appealed from the CINC proceeding. Foster Parents filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the CINC order was not one of those enumerated in the Revised Kansas Code for Care of Children (Revised Code) as appealable. The court of appeals denied the motion and then reversed the CINC court. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and dismissed the appeal, holding that there was no appellate jurisdiction to review the post-termination decisions at issue under the Revised Code’s appellate jurisdiction statute. View "In re N.A.C." on Justia Law

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After Mother and Father divorced, a Mississippi court entered a child-custody order granting residential custody of Child to Mother. Mother and Child moved to Kansas. Stepfather, Mother's husband, subsequently filed a petition for the stepparent adoption of Child. The district court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the stepparent adoption, determining that the Mississippi court had not relinquished jurisdiction over matters regarding Child, and a Mississippi court was a more appropriate forum to hear the adoption. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-2127, the jurisdiction provision of the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act, conflicted with provisions of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and that under the UCCJEA, only the Mississippi court could determine it no longer had continuing jurisdiction to modify the child-custody order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 59-2127 controls the determination of whether a Kansas court has jurisdiction over an adoption; (2) under section 29-2127, a Kansas court can determine if the Mississippi court has continuing jurisdiction over the child-custody order or this adoption; and (3) the district court's error in failing to apply section 59-2127 and in determining Mississippi a more convenient forum was not harmless. Remanded. View "In re Adoption of H.C.H." on Justia Law

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Defendant and Plaintiff were in a long-time, same-sex relationship, during which they had two children via artificial insemination. In conjunction with the birth of each child, the couple executed a coparenting agreement that addressed the contingency of a separation. After the couple separated, Defendant notified Plaintiff that she was taking the children to Texas. Plaintiff subsequently filed this action seeking to enforce the coparenting agreement. The district court's final order divided the parties' property, awarded the parties joint legal custody of the two children, designated Defendant as the residential custodian, established unsupervised parenting time for Plaintiff, and ordered Plaintiff to pay child support. The Supreme Court held (1) because the coparenting agreement was enforceable, the district court had the discretion to make appropriate orders addressing child custody, reasonable parenting time, and child support; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the court's determination that its custody and parenting time orders were in the best interests of the children; and (3) the court should have conducted an asset-by-asset analysis under Eaton v. Johnson regarding division of the parties' property. Remanded. View "Frazier v. Goudschaal" on Justia Law

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More than fifty years ago, in Edwards v. Edwards, the Supreme Court stated that a child support order entered during the pendency of a divorce action is interlocutory and may be modified at any time and in any manner, even to the extent of discharging accrued and unpaid installments. This appeal raised the issue of whether that holding remained valid in light of statutory changes that have occurred over that fifty-year period. After reviewing the statutory changes, the Supreme Court held that the Legislature limited a district court's authority to discharge past-due child support in a final decree of divorce; specifically, a court's authority is limited by the provision in Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1610(a)(1) that limits the retroactivity of a modification to a date at least one month after the date that a motion to modify was filed. Based on this conclusion, the Court (1) reversed the district court's order entered at the final divorce hearing that discharged all unpaid child support that had accrued under the court's interlocutory child support orders; and (2) reversed the court of appeals' decision to affirm the order discharging the past-due amounts. Remanded. View "In re Marriage of Brown" on Justia Law