What Connecticut Courts Consider When Ruling On Child Custody

by McConnell Family Law

In Connecticut, child custody is divided into two types: legal and physical. Whoever receives legal custody has the right to make important decisions on the child’s behalf. Physical custody is also referred to as “primary residence” and it aligns with whichever parent (if not both) has the child living with them the majority of the time. Joint legal custody is the most common arrangement because it gives both parents an equal voice in bringing up the children. 

In some circumstances granting sole legal and physical custody to one parent is more advisable depending on several factors of your child custody case. Should that happen, the other parent generally receives a fair visitation schedule.  Under Connecticut law, there is a presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the children (C. G. S. § 46b-56a(b)). In exceptional circumstances, such as those involving physical or substance abuse, sole legal custody may be rewarded.

Child custody is a central issue in family courts throughout the United States, and Connecticut is no different. Under ideal circumstances, a divorcing couple will negotiate their own agreement regarding custody and visitation, but if the break is a contentious one, chances are that custody will be another matter that they fight over. It is critical to seek the help of a Greenwich child custody attorney who may be able to protect your rights and your child’s best interests. Call us at the McConnell Law Group today at (203) 541-5520 to learn more about how we can help.

The Best Interests of the Children

Judges decide custody by determining what arrangement is in the best interests of the children. Connecticut General Statutes Sections 46b through 56(c) note several factors that may be taken into account in reaching a decision. They include:

  • The child’s own preference
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment
  • Which parent has the ability and availability to be active in the child’s life
  • The stability of the child’s current home environment
  • Length of time spent in the current home environment
  • How adjusted the child is to his or her present home and school situation
  • Whether or not the child has special needs and, if so, which parent may be more suited to meet those needs
  • Any interference by one parent in the other parent’s relationship with the child
  • Any history of child abuse or domestic violence
  • Misconduct by either parent during the fight over custody
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant

Connecticut couples who are separating/getting divorced and have children under the age of 18 are required to participate in a parenting education program within 60 days after filing their case in family court. This program consists of approximately six hours’ worth of classes that teach parents how to help their children adjust to divorce.

Greenwich child custody attorney

What Does Primary Physical Custody Mean

In Connecticut, custody laws make a distinction between legal and physical custody. Physical custody determines which parent the child primarily lives with, while legal custody is responsible for making significant decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and extracurricular activities if the parents cannot agree. 

When both parents have physical custody, it is called joint physical custody, and the child spends significant time with each parent, which may not be equal. Alternatively, when one parent holds primary physical custody and the other is granted limited visitation rights, this arrangement is called “sole physical custody.” Advocates for sole custody might contend that it offers greater stability and security for the child. Regardless of the custody structure, one parent is identified as the primary custodial parent, while the other is referred to as the noncustodial parent. 

Visitation laws in Connecticut guarantee a minimum amount of visitation time for the noncustodial parent with their child. Although parents can develop their own custody agreements, it is crucial to consult an experienced Connecticut child custody attorney to establish an arrangement that prioritizes the child’s best interests.

Call us at the McConnell Law Firm today at (203) 541-5520 to learn more about how our skilled Connecticut child custody lawyers can help.

Factors Explanation
Legal and Physical Custody Connecticut courts consider both legal and physical custody arrangements. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, while physical custody refers to where the child primarily resides. Joint legal custody is presumed to be in the best interest of the child, but sole legal and physical custody may be granted in exceptional circumstances, such as those involving physical or substance abuse.
Best Interests of the Child Connecticut courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Factors that may be considered include the child’s preference, stability of the home environment, ability of each parent to be active in the child’s life, length of time spent in the current home environment, the child’s adjustment to their current home and school situation, whether the child has special needs and which parent may be better suited to meet those needs, any history of child abuse or domestic violence, misconduct by either parent during the fight over custody, and any other relevant factors.
Parenting Education Program Connecticut couples who are separating or getting divorced and have children under the age of 18 are required to participate in a parenting education program within 60 days after filing their case in family court. This program consists of approximately six hours’ worth of classes that teach parents how to help their children adjust to divorce.

What Are The Grounds for Sole Custody in CT?

In Connecticut, child custody laws are structured with the child’s best interests as the primary concern. While the state upholds a preference for joint custody arrangements, acknowledging the benefits of a child maintaining a substantial relationship with both parents, there are certain circumstances in which a court may award sole custody to one parent.

Sole custody is considered when one parent is considered unfit for shared parental responsibilities due to factors such as substance abuse, history of violent crimes, severe mental health problems, and unsafe or unstable living conditions. Furthermore, a history of being absent or uninvolved in parenting can also support a case for sole custody.

In cases of substance abuse, any visitation by the involved parent would typically be supervised to protect the child. Similarly, a parent without a stable living environment may not be granted overnight visitation rights. Connecticut courts consider the entirety of each parent’s situation and ability to provide a nurturing environment when deciding on sole custody.

For those navigating sole custody proceedings in Connecticut, it is highly recommended to consult with a skilled Greenwich child custody attorney. McConnell Family Law Group can assist you in preparing and presenting evidence to support your case for obtaining sole custody. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

What This Means for You

Child custody arrangements are an important part of a separation or divorce, so it is essential to have an experienced family law team on your side as you navigate the complexities of legal paperwork and courtroom protocols. At the McConnell Family Law Group, we work to help you preserve your relationship with your children and see that it continues beyond the conclusion of the separation process or divorce action, whether it be in the form of legal and/or physical custody or a fair visitation agreement.

Attorneys from the McConnell Family Law Group practice throughout Connecticut.  If you would like more information about child custody, or any other family law issue, contact us at (203) 541-5520 to schedule your appointment today.

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