What Is Family Relations in Connecticut Divorce and Custody?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Updated November 27, 2023

When you are involved in a family law matter, one of the legal terms you may hear is “Family Relations.” Family Relations is a service provided by the Connecticut Judicial Branch to people working through family law matters like divorce and custody actions. It is also referred to as Family Services.

Read on to learn more.

Family Relations Basics

The Family Relations Counselors are court employees who are typically social workers or attorneys.  Family Services offers a wide variety of services to help resolve visitation, parenting, and financial disputes like property divisionalimony, and child support in divorce, separation, custody, and post-judgment actions.

As an aside, Family Relations Counselors are also referred to as Family Relations Officers. We know, it’s confusing.

Your level of involvement with Family Services may be very minimal — for example, it might be limited to the RDP date. In other cases, there is much more extensive involvement with Family Services.  Your divorce attorney can guide you through it.

What Does Family Relations Do?

They provide three main categories of services in the ct family courts:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Resolution Plan Date & Case Management
  • Family Services Evaluations
  • Parent Education Program

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (or “ADR”) is any method of resolving disputes outside of court. The major forms of ADR in divorce and family law matters are mediation and collaborative law. Divorce attorneys also use ADR as a tool to help spouses reach out-of-court agreements in litigation. For example, your lawyer might try a four-way meeting. Or, you may use some of Family Services’ ADR options to reach resolutions with your ex.

What Types of ADR Does Family Relations Offer?

  • Pre-trial Settlement Negotiations – Family Relations Counselors conduct pre-trial and final judgment settlement conferences with attorneys and parents in conjunction with certain family court hearings.
  • Mediation – Family Relations Officers provide some mediation services for parents with custody and parenting access disputes.
  • Conflict Resolution Conference – Parents and attorneys meet with Family Relations Counselors to try to resolve custody and parenting access. If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, the Family Relations Counselor may offer recommendations to the parents at the conclusion.  (These recommendations are not shared with the Judge.)

Resolution Plan Date & Case Management

Resolution Plan Date

The Resolution Plan Date (or “RDP” for short) is a meeting with Family Services where the family relations counselor triages your case to evaluate the possibility of an amicable resolution and recommends to the court the level of court services your case is likely to need. The court services that the Family Relations Counselor recommends can either be ADR services available through Family Relations or traditional court functions such as hearings with a judge. Based on the RPD recommendation, the court places your case on the track that contains the relevant services, with a scheduling order reflecting the same.

Case Management

There are two main types of Case Management conducted by Family Services: general and intensive.

  • General Case Management – A Family Relations Counselor assists parties in resolving their parenting issues with a report back to the Court.
  • Intensive Case Management – In Intensive Case Management, a Family Relations Officer works to enhance collaboration and communication between the parents so that they can reach mutual decisions regarding their children, and then reports back to the Court.

Family Services Evaluations

There are two main types of Family Services Evaluations: Issue-Focused Evaluations and Comprehensive Evaluations. In both, the Family Relations Officer reports back to the court with his or her recommendations.  In other words, neither is confidential.

Issue-Focused Evaluation – An Issue-Focused Evaluation, predictably, focuses on a distinct parenting dispute. It is more limited in scope and duration than a Comprehensive Evaluation.

Comprehensive Evaluation – A Comprehensive Evaluation is a much more intensive process. The Family Relations Officer conducts a full evaluation of the family system, makes a recommendation to the parents and their attorneys, and then shares it with Court.

Family Relations’ Parent Education Program

Connecticut requires parents to take a parenting education class. Family Services is responsible for administrating the Parent Education Program, although it contracts with outside community providers to offer the classes.

Next Steps

For more information about Connecticut divorce and family law, check out our Divorce Information and Facts. At Freed Marcroft, we have helped hundreds of people move forward to a better life. At our first step, the Goals & Planning Conference, we start by guiding you through a process to figure out your goals. If you decide that divorce is part of what you need to do to get you to the future you want, we can help you.  If it isn’t, we will support you and help you figure out what you need to get you there instead. Contact us here.

Let’s keep you moving forward.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC