Chapter 159

HOUSE BILL No. 2948 *

An Act concerning domestic disputes; relating to case management.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:

Section 1. Case management under this act is the process by which a neutral case manager appointed by the court, or by a hearing officer in a proceeding pursuant to K.S.A. 23-701, and amendments thereto, or through agreement by the parties, assists the parties by providing a pro- cedure, other than mediation, which facilitates negotiation of a plan for child custody or visitation. In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the case manager shall make recommendations to the court.

Sec. 2. (a) The court may order case management, when appropriate, of any contested issue of child custody or visitation at any time, upon the motion of a party or on the court's own motion. A hearing officer in a proceeding pursuant to K.S.A. 23-701, and amendments thereto, may order case management, if appropriate, of a contested issue of child vis- itation in such a proceeding.

(b) Cases in which case management is appropriate shall include one or more of the following circumstances:

(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 parties filing at least two motions in a six-month period for enforcement, modification or change of visitation or custody which are denied by the court; or

(4) a parent exhibits diminished capacity to parent.

(c) If the court or hearing officer orders case management under subsection (a), the court or hearing officer shall appoint a case manager, taking into consideration the following:

(1) An agreement by the parties to have a specific case manager ap- pointed by the court or hearing officer;

(2) the financial circumstances of the parties and the costs assessed by the case manager;

(3) the case manager's knowledge of (A) the Kansas judicial system and the procedure used in domestic relations cases, (B) other resources in the community to which parties can be referred for assistance, (C) child development, (D) clinical issues relating to children, (E) the effects of divorce on children and (F) the psychology of families; and

(4) the case manager's training and experience in the process and techniques of alternative dispute resolution and case management.

(d) To qualify as an appointed case manager, an individual shall:

(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 management issues.

Sec. 3. (a) A case manager appointed under section 2, and amend- ments thereto, shall:

(1) Meet with the parties, and other individuals deemed appropriate;

(2) gather information necessary to assist the parties in reaching an agreement or making recommendations, including medical, psychologi- cal, education and court records, including child custody investigations and child custody psychological evaluations, of the parties and children;

(3) report to the court as directed by court order;

(4) keep a record by date and topic of all contacts with the parties in the case. When requested, this record shall be made available to the court in total or summary form without the express consent of the parties and shall not be considered a medical or psychological record for purposes of confidentiality;

(5) notify the court when a party fails to meet the financial obligations of the case management process;

(6) file for collection of costs as necessary. The court shall assist in such filing or collection efforts, or both;

(7) be authorized by the court to report threats, imminent danger, suspected child abuse, fear of abduction and suspected or actual harm to any party or child involved in case management either directly to the court and to other authorities, or both. Such action shall be followed by a writ- ten summary within five business days of the initial filing of such report which shall be sent to the judge or the judge's designee and included in the court file; and

(8) directly contact the court with any other information the case manager determines that the court should know.

(b) A case manager appointed under section 2, and amendments thereto, may withdraw at any time following the initial order. Sufficient reasons for withdrawal may include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) Loss of neutrality which prevents objectivity;

(2) nonpayment by a party;

(3) lack of cooperation by a party;

(4) threat to a party;

(5) retirement or case load reduction by a case manager; or

(6) any other reason which shall be stated to the court in writing and considered adequate and sufficient reason by the court.

(c) A disputant party may request reassignment of a case manager by filing a motion with the court. The court shall consider such requests upon review. Repeated requests may raise a presumption of lack of pa- rental cooperation and the court may consider sanctions against the un- cooperative parent or parents.

(d) (1) If parties have been ordered by the court to attempt to settle the party's disputes with the assistance of a case manager, and are unable to settle such disputes, the parties are to follow the recommendation or recommendations of the case manager as ordered by the court.

(2) When a case manager is forced to make recommendations for the parties, such recommendations shall be noted in writing as soon as pos- sible and may be accompanied by supporting information. Such recom- mendation shall be reported to the court with copies to the attorneys of record for each party within 10 working days.

(3) Agreements of the parties and recommendations of the case man- ager which may concern temporary arrangements need not be entered into the court record by the attorneys of record.

(4) Case managers shall be furnished a form for orders to recommend such agreements to the court for the court's final order.

(5) Permanent issues such as designation of custody, primary resi- dence or child support which are recommended by the case manager shall be entered into the court record within 10 working days of receipt of the recommendation. Should there be differing opinions as to the lan- guage of the journal entry, the case manager shall review the proposed journal entry and may recommend appropriate language to the court.

(6) If a disputant party disagrees with a recommendation such party may file a motion before the court for a review at which time an order shall be made by the court. The case manager shall explain to the court either by report or testimony the reasons for such recommendation or recommendations.

(7) Costs of the procedure and professional time may be assessed to the party who objected to the recommendations in the journal entry or may be otherwise assessed by the court.

Sec. 4. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the statute book.

Approved April 10, 1996.