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Marriage & Divorce
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Marriage is a legal contract. It affects your rights to own and to sell property, the amount of income tax that you owe, your need for a will and insurance, and your retirement plans.

Before you marry, both parties must go to the district courthouse and apply in person and sign an Application and Affidavit to Obtain Marriage License under oath. There is a three day waiting period before the clerk or judge will issue the license. Blood tests are no longer required. A fee is charged for the license.

If both you and your fiancé are 18 or older you do not need any other person's consent. If you or your fiancé are under 18, a parent or guardian and a district court judge must consent. You can be married by an ordained clergyperson of any religion or any judge of a court record.

In marriage, the husband and the wife are legally obligated to support each other. You should be aware of this as you establish your jobs or roles in your marriage. Kansas laws do not require one partner to provide the family's income and the other partner to be a homemaker. Together, each husband and wife must decide how they will support each other. Even though a marriage must be built on trust, both the husband and the wife should carefully examine their respective roles in the marriage, and the possible consequences of this arrangement in the event of separation or divorce or death.

Children: As parents you must support your children until they reach majority age (18). If you do not, a court could order payments. Failure to obey is civil contempt. Your children could also be taken from you.

Common Law Marriages

A common law marriage is a marriage by agreement of the two persons without any formal ceremony or license. A common law marriage will be recognized in Kansas if the couple considers themselves to be married and publicly holds themselves out to be married and if they are legally eligible to marry. No minimum period of cohabitation is required.

Common Law marriages are subject to the same legal obligations and privileges that apply to marriages with licenses. Once a common law marriage is established, the couple must get a court ordered divorce to terminate the marriage.

Living Together Without Marrying

Unmarried couples living together have become more and more common. In Kansas it is no longer illegal for persons of the opposite sex to live together and share a sexual relationship without being married. 

However, couples living together should be aware that although they avoid the legal obligations of marriage by doing so, they are also denied the legal protections of marriage. If you choose to live together without marrying, you should be sure that you understand your legal rights and obligations if you buy or sell property together, have children, sign a lease or a contract, or make other important commitments.

You should know that an agreement, either informal or written, that establishes your rights and responsibilities to each other, may not be legally enforceable. If you have questions, talk with a lawyer. 

Name Changes

Although it is customary for the wife to assume her husband's last name upon marriage, she is under no legal compulsion to do so. She may retain her maiden name without any formal legal proceedings by simply continuing to use it. If, however, she assumes her husband's name and later wants to resume her maiden name, she must petition the district court in the county where she lives for her legal name change. A woman may have her previous name restored at the time of a divorce.

Divorce

Divorce is a legal termination of a marriage. To get a divorce in Kansas, the petitioner must be a Kansas resident for 60 days. There are several grounds for granting a divorce: incompatibility (no-fault); failure to perform a material martial duty; and mental illness (where spouse has been confined to a mental institution for two years or the court has found the spouse mentally ill or mentally incapacitated). Suits must be filed in the district court in which either spouse lives at the time of filing or where the spouse being filed against can be served.

The court may order either spouse to pay "maintenance" (alimony) to the other party. It may order regular monthly payments or a lump sum payment. The court's power to award maintenance is limited to 121 months. This may be extended in some circumstances. The court may modify future payments unless the decree says it cannot. The court may not modify past due maintenance payments.

In a divorce proceeding, the district court also divides the property and debts of the parties in a fair, just and equitable manner, regardless of the source or manner in which the property was acquired. The court will consider the age of the parties, the length of time the marriage lasted, the types of property involved, the present and future earning abilities of the parties, how and when the property was acquired, family ties and obligations, whether maintenance is allowed and other pertinent factors.

Normally, the parties will have joint custody of the children with physical custody and visitation to be determined based upon what is in the best interest of the minor children. If the parents cannot agree on custody, a court may order mediation. Child support is established from the Child Support Guidelines based on the combined incomes of the parties, the number and ages of the children, and other considerations. A parent who does not visit his or her children is still required to pay support as ordered.

If you have questions about divorce, contact a lawyer.

I need a lawyer, how can I find one?

Contact the Kansas Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. Call 1-800-928-3111 and ask for the name of a lawyer who handles domestic relations cases. For those who cannot afford a private attorney, free legal assistance to low-income people is available in all counties.

 

Contact Kansas Legal Services Inc. to learn of the nearest KLS field office serving your county.

Kansas Legal Services Inc.
712 S. Kansas Ave.
Topeka, KS 66603
(785) 233-2068

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