How do Connecticut Courts Decide Child Custody?
Many people wonder “how do Connecticut courts decide child custody?”
Read on to learn more.
The Court Makes the Final Custody Decision
The first thing you need to know is that the court always has the final say when it comes to child custody — even when you and your spouse agree.
Many parents agree to a parenting plan on child custody and visitation either through mediation, collaborative divorce, or negotiation in a litigated divorce. When a child’s parents agree to joint custody, the court presumes that joint custody is in the child’s best interest. If the court orders sole custody instead of joint custody, the judge has to lay out the reasons why.
Even then, the court must approve your parenting plan by finding that it’s in your child’s best interest. The experienced custody lawyers at Freed Marcroft help you understand whether a court is likely to find a particular parenting plan to be in your child’s best interest.
Two Types of Connecticut Custody: Physical Custody and Legal Custody
First, it’s important to understand that the courts will be making decisions about two different types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the child’s living situation. If you are given sole physical custody, your child will physically live with you, while the other parent will generally have rights to visitation. A joint custody parenting plan, on the other hand, means your child will spend time living with both of you, even if the amount of time is not exactly equal.
Legal custody gives parents the ability to make major decisions for their children in terms of their education, healthcare, and religion, among others. Again, sole legal custody means only one parent will have this decision-making power. Connecticut courts tend to prefer granting joint legal custody, allowing both parents to share the ability to make decisions for the children.
How Does the Court Decide Child’s Best Interest?
Connecticut courts decide on child custody based on the “child’s best interest” standard. In other words, they will give the child’s needs and interests top priority when making a decision. The court may take older children’s wishes into consideration, but this is just one of several factors that Connecticut courts will use to decide on child custody.
What Do Courts Look at When Deciding Custody?
Connecticut law details a series of factors for judges to consider when deciding custody. Judges are not required to give any particular weight to any one of those factors and are allowed to consider any other relevant information. Here are some of the factors that the judge will consider when determining what’s in your child’s best interest:
- Your child’s needs. What are your child’s developmental needs, including their physical, emotional, educational, and special needs? Are you and the other parent able to understand and meet your child’s needs? The courts will evaluate your ability to stay active in your child’s life and provide for him or her. Your child’s cultural background may also come into play.
- Your child’s relationships. How is the relationship between your child and each parent? What about siblings? Are you willing and able to encourage a good relationship between your child the other parent? The court will frown upon any evidence that you or the other parent has tried to involve your child in your disputes through manipulative or coercive behavior.
- Your child’s living situation. Is your child well-adjusted to his or her home, school, and community? Is the child living in a stable environment? The courts will consider how long your child has been living in a stable, satisfactory environment, because they may wish to keep the child in that environment.
- The health of everyone involved. Are you in good physical and mental health? What about the other parent? Keep in mind that a disability won’t disqualify a parent from having custody unless the arrangement truly doesn’t benefit the child.
- Other factors. Has there been any domestic violence in the household, either against the child, a sibling, or a parent? Has there been any abuse or neglect? The courts will treat these situations very seriously and make an effort to keep the child safe.
For more information about Connecticut divorce and family law, check out our Divorce Information and Facts.