Most parents who decide to live apart must ensure they both continue to have a relationship with their children. Your child custody and visitation decisions are incorporated into a parenting plan, which the divorce court approves and issues as an enforceable order. When you and your partner can’t agree on parenting, the court will hear evidence, determine what’s in the children’s best interests, and issue a ruling.
When the parenting plan isn’t working as you had hoped, consult a family attorney about modifying it or compelling your co-parent to comply with it as written. A Connecticut visitation lawyer can advise you on achieving your goals whether you’re a parent, grandparent, stepparent, or another relative who wants to maintain a relationship with children whose parents have divorced.
Significant Time With Both Parents
Connecticut courts favor joint legal and physical custody arrangements whenever possible, where parents share decision-making authority and the children spend significant time with each parent.
Parents can agree to other arrangements as long as they are in the children’s best interests. A Connecticut visitation attorney can review a parenting plan and explain whether the court will likely find it promotes the children’s best interests and thus will be accepted by the divorce court.
When one parent poses a threat to their children, the divorce court might award the other parent sole custody—but the first parent will still have visitation rights unless they surrender or the court terminates their parental rights (which happens only in rare cases). In some cases, that parent’s visitation is supervised.
Changing Visitation Arrangements
Connecticut has a higher standard for evaluating custody changes than it does when evaluating visitation changes. Under § 46b-56(b), when modifying visitation, courts consider “the rights and responsibilities of each parent” to issue orders “that serve the best interests of the child and provide the child with the active and consistent involvement of both parents commensurate with their abilities and interests.” Motions to modify custody, however, generally require a material change in circumstances. A Connecticut visitation attorney can advise you on whether a development will likely merit a parenting plan change.
Parents can ask the divorce court to modify the parenting plan to accommodate a different work schedule, relocation, or changes in the children’s interests or schedules. Should you both agree on the modification, the divorce court will review and approve the revised plan if it meets the standard. If you disagree, the court will hold a hearing where the parent seeking the modification must prove the change is in the child’s best interests and any other requirements.
Sometimes one parent cancels a visit, picks up or drops off the children late, does not have the children ready at visiting time, or does not abide by the established visitation rules. In such instances, the other parent could bring a motion to enforce the parenting plan via a motion to compel or a motion for contempt. If the non-compliant parent doesn’t explain their behavior reasonably, the divorce court might find them in contempt. The court has the flexibility to decide whether to order compliance, impose a fine, or require them to pay some or all the other party’s attorney’s fees and expenses. If the other parent has a legitimate reason for non-compliance, the court could modify the existing parenting plan to accommodate them. Speak with a visitation lawyer about whether your circumstances rise to the level of contempt and, if so, whether it’s the type of situation where the court is likely to order compliance or order punishment in addition.
Ex Parte Orders
When you have reasonable cause to believe your co-parent is endangering the children, you can seek an emergency order from the court. An ex parte order can return physical custody of the children to you until the divorce court can hold a hearing. The other parent can present their version of events at the hearing, and the divorce court will rule whether modifying the parenting plan is necessary for the children’s protection.
Rights of Non-Parents to Visitation
Certain non-parents, such as grandparents or stepparents, develop deep bonds with children but do not have automatic visitation rights after divorce. However, a divorce court might order continued visits with the children if the person seeking visitation can prove the following:
- Their relationship with the child was parental
- The child would suffer harm if visitation were denied
A Connecticut attorney can help a non-parent prepare a petition to seek visitation with children of divorce.
Discuss Your Situation With a Connecticut Visitation Attorney
When visitation has become an issue for you and your children, you should address it right away. A Connecticut visitation lawyer can help you determine the best approach to resolve this vital issue. Reach out to Freed Marcroft today to schedule a consultation.