Judge Paul Burmaster Explains the Parenting Plan and Custody Decision-Making Process in Family Court

Michigan, US, 20th June 2024, ZEX PR WIRE, Judge Paul Burmaster, a respected figure in the Family Law division of the 10th Judicial District, Johnson County, Kansas District Court, provides insight into judges’ careful and comprehensive process to determine child custody, residency and parenting plans. Judge Burmaster, the second most senior judge in the seven-judge Family Law department, brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to the welfare of children in divorce and parentage cases.

Serving in a court that includes 22 District Judges and 4 Magistrate Judges, Judge Burmaster manages a demanding workload of approximately 2,000 assigned cases and 400 scheduled hearings, addressing issues such as divorces, parentage disputes, and protection orders. His extensive experience in criminal and civil matters and his mediation skills make him a pivotal figure in ensuring fair and just outcomes in family law cases.

Judge Burmaster explains that “custody” as used in Kansas can be confusing for parents.  “Custody” in Kansas does not refer to the residence of the child, but rather it refers to the responsibility to make decisions regarding the “health, safety, and welfare” of the child.  “Joint” custody, where parents share in these decisions, is preferred.  However, in some cases “Sole” custody, where one parent makes the decisions, is necessary.  “Our primary focus is always the child’s best interest,” says Judge Burmaster. “We look at various aspects including each parent’s role and involvement with the child, the age of the child, the desires of a child of sufficient age, and the interaction of the parents, including any history of domestic violence.”

The analysis of parenting plans and residency of the child involves multiple elements found in the Kansas statutes, Judge Paul Burmaster says.  He says this list includes “the emotional and physical needs of the child, the interaction of the child with parents and other people in the child’s orbit, the ability of the parents to communicate and cooperate with each other, evidence of domestic abuse, the location of the child’s school, and more.” Judges, he adds, take great care to examine all of these elements, although depending on the facts of the case, some of the elements may be more relevant that others.

“The relationship history is crucial,” Judge Burmaster notes. “We evaluate how each parent has been involved in the child’s life, their roles, and the nature of their interactions. Stability and continuity are vital for the child’s sense of security, but we also recognize that as parents’ lives change, their roles change and so may their involvement.”

Another significant factor is the parents’ willingness to collaborate and maintain a cooperative co-parenting relationship. Judges look for evidence that parents can put aside their differences and work together to support their child’s overall well-being. “Cooperation between parents can greatly impact the child’s adjustment and emotional health,” Judge Burmaster emphasizes. “We encourage parents to demonstrate a commitment to co-parenting effectively.”

The court, Judge Burmaster adds, also takes into account any history of abuse from either parent. Ensuring the child’s safety is paramount, and any evidence of past abuse or neglect is thoroughly examined. Additionally, the living conditions provided by each parent may be evaluated to ensure they offer a stable and safe environment for the child.

Judge Burmaster also noted that courts usually consider how far apart parents live from each other. In cases where parents live close to each other, equal parenting time is more likely a possibility. However, when parents live far apart, Judge Burmaster said, equal time is likely not possible as the child will likely spend more time in the residence close to their school and activities. The hope, he says, is to ensure that the child’s life is in no way destabilized more than the damage already caused by the divorce process itself. 

Judge Burmaster’s journey to the bench began with a distinguished career in private practice, handling various cases, including criminal, civil, and juvenile matters. With extensive trial experience, he has handled over 40 jury trials and countless bench trials. His career also includes serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Wyandotte County and Assistant City Prosecutor in Wichita and Kansas City, Missouri.

Beyond his legal work, Judge Burmaster is committed to his community through various charitable endeavors, including his past membership on the Community Leadership Development Council for the Kansas Children’s Service League.

Judge Burmaster’s dedication to justice and comprehensive approach to parenting time decisions reflect his deep commitment to serving the best interests of children and families in Johnson County.

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