what's in the best interest of the child in custody cases

What Connecticut Courts Consider When Ruling on Child Custody

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. At that point a judge will have to step in and decide on an arrangement.

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, but in some circumstances granting sole legal and physical custody to one parent is more advisable. 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.

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.

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, covering: Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Westport, Wilton, West Hartford, Simsbury, Avon, Farmington, Glastonbury and surrounding areas.  If you would like more information about child custody, or any other family law issue, call one of our offices located in Hartford (860) 266-1166, Stamford (203) 539-6221, or New Canaan (203) 344-7007 to schedule your appointment today.

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