How is property divided in a divorce in Kansas?


Kansas courts have the power to divide all property that a married couple owns or in which either husband or wife has an ‘interest.’ This means that the court has the power to decide how to divide and distribute between the husband and wife any and all property and debt that either the husband or wife owns or possesses — no matter when the property or debt was obtained (whether before or after the marriage), no matter whose name the property or debt appears on the title (whether husband or wife or someone else), no matter by whose efforts the property or debt was obtained (whether or not in joint names), whether the property or debt is located inside or outside the state of Kansas, and no matter whether it is property currently owned or to which either party has a present right to obtain. The “property” that may be divided by a court in a divorce (separate maintenance or annulment action) includes real and personal property as well as financial accounts, retirement accounts and plans, secured or unsecured debts, and any other property ‘interests’ that either party may possess at any time during the marriage.

Although this rule defines “what” Kansas courts can divide, it doesn’t describe “how” that property is divided. The “how” of the ways by which Kansas courts can divide property in a marriage dissolution proceeding is determined by the rule of ‘equitable division.’

Equitable division: Kansas law provides that property in a divorce proceeding is distributed by the rule of ‘equitable division.’ This rule provides that instead of mechanistically looking at whose name is listed as the “owner” of property or who “earned” the income used to purchase the property, the court deciding a marriage dissolution case decides how to ‘fairly and equitably’ divide the property accumulated by a married couple in the way determined by the judge after reviewing rules set out in the Kansas statutes.

Kansas courts try to make any division of assets and debts fair and appropriate for everyone – both the husband and the wife. Kansas courts will not allow a wife to “take her husband to the cleaners,” but will also not allow a husband to “cut his wife off without a dime.” The law requires an “equitable division” of the property, taking all applicable factors into consideration.

Some judges use the Johnson County, Kansas Bar Association Family Law Guidelines as a general guide to determine a fair division of the property in marriage dissolution cases. It must be emphasized that the division of property in any domestic relations action is often much more complex than the mere application of a mathematical formula. The guidelines are not the law of Kansas and are simply a set of general rules of thumb written by lawyers with the idea of trying to set up a framework of understanding so that matrimonial cases are more easily resolved. As stated by those Guidelines: “Although helpful in reaching settlement, the Family Law Guidelines are not binding and have not been adopted by the Court. The Family Law Guidelines are designed to provide a structure for negotiation and a suggested manner of resolving the difficult issues that arise in family law cases . . . The Family Law Guidelines should not be a substitute for critical analysis of any individual case.”

As your attorneys, we will work with you and your spouse to reach a fair division of your property (regardless of who paid for that property, whose name it is listed as the owner, or who is listed as the responsible party on debts).