Kansas Legislature Amends Case Manager Qualifications

The Kansas Senate on Monday (May 15, 2012) approved  a Conference Committee Report that amends the qualifications required of Domestic Relations Case Managers appointed by the courts in high-conflict child custody cases in Kansas. The action, on a 35-1 vote, sends the bill to the Governor for signature (the Kansas House approved the Conference Committee Report on Friday, May 11, 2012 by a 116-0 vote).

The bill provides that starting September 1, 2012, anyone appointed by a district court to act as a domestic relations case manager must have the following qualifications:

(1) (A) Be currently licensed in Kansas as a licensed psychologist, licensed masters level psychologist, licensed clinical psychotherapist, licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, licensed master social worker or licensed specialist social worker;

(B) be currently licensed to practice law in Kansas and have at least five years of experience in the field of domestic relations law or family law; or

(C) be a court services officer and have training in domestic relations cases as prescribed by the district court in which the case is filed;

(2) be qualified to conduct mediation;

(3) have experience as a mediator;

(4) attend one or more workshops, approved and as ordered by the district court in which the case is filed, on case management; and

(5) participate in continuing education complete a minimum number of continuing education hours regarding case management issues or abuse and control dynamics issues as established and approved by the supreme court.

K.S.A. 23-3508(d) (as amended by 2012 Kan.Sess SB 304, Sec. 18).

Before this amendment, case managers appointed under the Case Management statutes needed only (1) be qualified to conduct mediation; (2) have experience as a mediator; (3) attend a workshop approved by the district court in which the case is filed on case management; and (4) participate in continuing education regarding case management.

As described by the Kansas statutes, “Case management” is the process in which a neutral “case manager” “assists the parties by providing a procedure, other than mediation, which facilitates negotiation of a plan for child custody, residency or visitation or parenting time.” Case management is intended as a way for the court to address the conflicts between parents in “high conflict” child custody cases. Kansas statutes provide a court may appoint a case manager when:

(1) Private or public neutral dispute resolution services have been tried and failed to resolve the disputes;

(2) other neutral services have been determined to be inappropriate for the family;

(3)  repetitive conflict occurs within the family, as evidenced by the filing of at least two motions in a six-month period for enforcement, modification or change of residency, visitation, parenting time or custody which are denied by the court; or

(4) a parent exhibits diminished capacity to parent.

K.S.A. 23-3508(b)

Over the years, many controversies have arisen over the use and effect of case management in Kansas. The Kansas Court of Appeals is hearing argument on an appeal this month (on May 15, 2012) complaining that a mother’s due process rights were violated because the district judge accepted a case manager’s recommendations to change a child’s residence without allowing the mother a hearing on the underlying basis for the proposed change. The Topeka Capital-Journal recently ran a story on this case and the problems that many have complained about with case management.

Legislators have indicated interest in making changes to the Case Management process. But they are now taking a “wait-and-see” attitude waiting for the Court of Appeals decision.

To review all of the changes made by the Kansas Legislature to the Kansas Family Law statutes, see our page on 2012 Kansas Legislative Changes.