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Greetings from the Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas Bar Association. This is the first edition of Law Wise for 2005. Given the new year, we will use this issue to help students understand laws that affect them, generally explaining their rights upon exiting high school, and specifically discussing the legal jargon surrounding divorce and child custody. While this might not be a light topic, students often ask questions about these issues, and so we want to provide them with the knowledge to understand the basics. We will also use this issue to explain the adopted Kansas standards and how we hope to use them to make implementing our lesson plans into your curriculum easier.
Calendar of Events
Kansas Curricular Standards for History-Government,
by Lynn Stanley, Social Studies Consultant, Kansas Department of Education
On Your Own: A guide to your legal rights and responsibilities as an adult
On Your Own is a booklet published by the Kansas Bar Association and is intended to give general information on a few areas of the law that impact a young person setting out on their own. The main topics include alcoholic beverages, on the road, on the job, domestic relations, renting and leasing, credit where credit is due, smart buying, consumer problems, climbing the complaint ladder, seeking legal representation, voting and public services, and if you are arrested.
For the Record: A guide to your rights and responsibilities as a young adult
For the Record was produced by the KBA’s Public Information Committee in cooperation with the Kansas Supreme Court. It is 10 pages long and includes the following main topics: Family, If I’m in trouble …, Am I old enough to …, and School. These main topics are then broken into several subparts with one to two paragraphs of general explanations of each one.
These publications can be found in their entirety on the Kansas Bar Association Web site. Go to www.ksbar.org, click on Public Resources, and then Public Information Pamphlets.
The Kansas Bar Association, with funding from the Kansas Bar Foundation, is making available grant funds to be used by schools in developing peer mediation and youth court programs. The $500 grants can be used to produce seminars, hire consultants, and/or pay for supplies, or other expenses associated with starting or continuing a program.
Peer mediation programs are defined as programs, which are developed to reduce in-school conflicts between students by using students to mediate the disputes. Youth courts are programs that use students in youth court settings to hear minor violations and to decide on appropriate disciplines.
Applications for grant funds should be in letter format and should include the following information:
The deadline to submit grant applications is April 8, 2005. If you receive a grant, your school/organization will be required to forward any evaluation information resulting from the conflict resolution program to the KBA. This detailed information will help continue the funding of conflict resolution programs.
If you have any questions or wish to submit an application, contact Janessa Akin at the Kansas Bar Association, (785) 234-5696, P.O. Box 1037, Topeka, KS 66601-1037 or by email at email@example.com.
Fifth grade students throughout Kansas are invited to participate in the second annual writing contest on the United State Bill of Rights. Either prose or poetry is accepted. Guidelines and judging are based on Kansas standards in social studies and language arts. The Kansas Press Association coordinates the judging. Entry deadline is March 11, 2005. For more information, visit KTWU’s Web site at ktwu.washburn.edu and click on “education resources,” then “Bill of Rights.”
If you have any questions, contact Melissa P. Masoner, M.Ed., at (785) 478-4992 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Annissa Hambouz, The New York Times Learning Network and Tanya Yasmin Chin, The Bank Street College of Education in New York City
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students examine the question of relocation in child custody litigation. In groups, they then discuss and present potential problems and solutions for the different parties involved in child custody when one parent decides to move.
Suggested Time Allowance: 1 hour
Objectives: Students will:
-copies of the article “Divorced Parents Move, and Custody Gets Trickier” (one per student)
-six slips of paper
-computers with Internet access (optional)
Further Questions for Discussion:
– What criteria do you think judges should use in ruling on relocation in child custody cases?
– Do you think that children of divorced parents should be allowed to decide with which parent they would like to reside? If so, at what age? If not, why?
– Based on what you read in the article, with whose legal position do you think you would agree the most, David J. Levy’s or Judith S. Wallerstein’s, and why?
– Why do you think the United States has such a “mobile” society?
– How many times have you moved in your life? What were your experiences moving to a new town or state?
Students will be evaluated based on written and verbal responses to warm-up exercise, participation in group discussion, presentation, creation of a visual representation of best possible solution, and thoughtfully written journal entry.
This article and lesson plan was printed in the New York Times on Aug. 9, 2004. The lesson plan can be accessed at www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/lessons/20040809monday.html and the article can be found at www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20040809monday.html.
PRESIDENT’S DAY: While President’s Day was not the topic of this issue, the following is a good Web site for materials about President’s Day for your classroom: www.education-world.com/a_special/presidents_day.shtml.
The Law-Related Education Inventory has the following items, which might be useful in working with students to learn about the legal process:
The Law-Related Education Inventory has many resources to help teach about law-related topics. To order a catalog, call Janessa Akin at the Kansas Bar Association, (785) 234-5696. The Kansas Bar Association and the lawyers in your community sponsor the Law-Related Education Inventory. The clearinghouse will mail free copies of law-related posters, games, mock trials, booklets, lesson plans, and other aids. It is open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The director of the Teachers College Resource Center, which houses the Law-Related Education Inventory, Marla Darby, can be reached at Darbymar@esumail.emporia.edu/.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grade Level: 4-6
Editor’s note: This lesson plan is not directly about divorce or child custody, but mediation is often used in divorce and child custody situations to resolve issues in a less adversarial setting.
It’s important both to protect the best interests of children in conflict situations and to educate youngsters about how they too can resolve conflicts peacefully. Here is a quick, one-day lesson designed to introduce upper elementary students to nonadversial methods of conflict resolution.
Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students will assess, from various perspectives, the United States Supreme Court ruling to stay the recount of Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election.
Suggested Time Allowance: 1 hour
Jody was sick and wouldn’t go on her paper route, so she asked Tony to do it for her. She agreed to pay him $2. Tony delivered the papers, but didn’t put plastic bags on them. It rained and the papers were ruined. Jody refused to pay Tony the $2.
Explain to students that they will experience two different methods of resolving disputes: the adversarial process of the court, and the mediation process, that takes place in neighborhood justice centers in cities throughout the country. Divide the class into groups. Explain that the groups will first role play a case using the adversary model. One person in each group should play the plaintiff, a second the defendant, and a third the judge. Explain the court procedure as follows:
Conduct simultaneous role plays. They should last about 10 minutes. Then with the entire group ask the following questions:
Mediation in Action
Explain that students will next mediate the same case. Allow at least 15 minutes for this role play. The judge will become the mediator, and plaintiff and defendant will now be called the disputants. Have the plaintiff and defendant switch roles from the first role play. Explain that the mediator does not make a decision in the case. His/her role is to help the disputants reach an agreement. This procedure is as follows:
After the allotted time, bring the class back together and debrief with the following questions.
This lesson plan was written by Melinda Smith, director of the New Mexico Center for Dispute Resolution. It is adapted from the ABA publication Sure Fire Presentations and can be found at www.abanet.org/publiced/lawday/schools/lessons/46_mediation.html.
The Law in Kansas: Divorce & Child CustodyThe excerpts used in this article were taken from On Your Own and For the Record.
What happens to me if my parents get divorced?
Sometimes the children in a divorce are put in the custody of one parent with the other parent having visitation privileges. Generally, children are placed in the “joint custody” of both parents. There are a number of decisions that will then affect children in the divorce. Will you have to move? Will you get to live with both parents? How much time will you get to see both parents? Will you get to live with your brothers and sisters? A court will hear what each of your parent proposes as answers. If you are old enough, the judge may ask you what you want. In Kansas, some courts will use a mediator to settle some of these questions. The mediator may involve you in the mediation. You need to let your parents and the court know what your views are. The final decision made by the judge will be based upon what he or she believes is in your best interest.
In cases of divorce or separation, who decides who gets custody of the children?
Both parents can make this decision. However, the law requires that any agreement be written down and filed with the court to ensure it is enforceable. If there is no agreement between the parents, the court will decide who gets custody. The test the court uses to make the decision is what will be in the child’s best interest. Astable home and school environment are an important part of the “best interest” standard. The court also considers what the parents want and the relationship between each parent and the children. The children’s wishes, may in some cases, be a factor in the court’s decision. Courts prefer to let the parents decide custody; they are in a better position to make that decision than a judge who may be a stranger to the family.
There are three legal grounds in Kansas for the granting of a divorce: incompatibility (no fault); failure to perform a material marital duty; or mental illness. To obtain a divorce on the basis of mental illness, the spouse must either be confined to a mental institution for a total of two years, or a court must first find that the institutionalized spouse is mentally ill or mentally incapacitated. The spouse seeking the divorce must file the action in the district court located in the county in which either spouse lives or where the other spouse can be legally served with the divorce petition. In order to file for divorce, either spouse must have resided in Kansas for 60 days prior to filing. Before a divorce is granted, the court may order either spouse to pay support for any children, maintenance (alimony) payments to the other spouse, and the legal costs of the divorce.
If the court orders either spouse to pay maintenance to the other, it may order regular monthly payments, a lump-sum payment or a combination of the two. A court award of maintenance generally may not exceed a period of 121 months or slightly more than 10 years. However, the divorcing spouses may enter into an agreement involving the payment of maintenance for a longer period. The court may modify future payments unless your agreement provides otherwise. However, the court cannot modify maintenance payments that are past due.
The court will also divide the marital property in a just and reasonable manner between the two spouses, regardless of the source or manner in which the property was acquired. The court will consider the age of the parties, how long 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 awarded, and other pertinent factors.
Child Custody and Support
The court will decide which parent gets custody of the children and what rights the other parent has. The main consideration of the court in determining custody is the best interests of the child.
A custody order will also include the amount of child support that must be paid and any additional expenses that the “noncustodial” parent will be responsible for. The court determines child support on the basis of guidelines that vary depending upon the number of children in the family, their ages, and the combined incomes of the parents. Marital misconduct is not a consideration in ordering child support. Both parents are responsible for providing support to the children, but the court will assume that the parent who is granted custody will be paying many of the expenses of raising and caring for them. That is why it is almost always the noncustodial parent who is required to make child support payments. The legal right to child support belongs to your children, not the parent who has custody. A child support order is always subject to modification by the court if family circumstances change significantly.
When a marriage is annulled, in the eyes of the law, the marriage never occurred. Kansas law requires the court to annul a marriage if it is legally void for any reason or if the marriage was induced by fraud. The court is also permitted, but not required, to annul a marriage if it was induced by mistake, lack of knowledge of a material fact, or any other reason the court believes justifies annulment.
Law Wise is published by the Kansas Bar Association during the school year. The Kansas Bar Foundation, with Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts funding, provides support for this publication. Published free, on request, for teachers or anyone interested in law-related education, it is edited by Crystal Marietta, Pittsburg, (620) 231-5620.
For further information about any projects or articles, contact Ron Keefover, Education and Information Officer of the Office of Judicial Administration, Topeka, (785) 296-4872, or Janessa Akin, Public Services Director of the Kansas Bar Association, Topeka (785) 234-5696.
Law Wise is printed at the Kansas Bar Association, 1200 Southwest Harrison, P.O. Box 1037, Topeka, Kansas 66601-1037.