Custody Laws in Connecticut
Child custody issues are some of the most difficult to deal with during a divorce. Parents can very easily begin to use their children as pawns, trying to “get back” at the other parent, which is to no one’s benefit.
If you have children and are considering divorce, you need to understand how a judge will analyze child custody by custody laws in Connecticut.
After gaining an understanding of the law, you will stand in better shape to negotiate a child custody agreement or ask a judge for what you want.
The state presumes that joint custody is in your child’s best interest, so a judge will order joint custody unless there is a compelling reason not to. Joint custody includes the following:
- Legal custody: the right to make important decisions for your child, such as issues involving education or health care.
- Physical custody: the right to have the child live with you.
In some situations, a judge might order sole legal custody or sole physical custody (or both). The usual reason is that one parent is unfit, typically because they have a drug or alcohol problem or are violent. With sole custody, only one parent makes all the decisions concerning the child. Sole custody is rare, and you should talk with an attorney if you think it is something you want to request.
Best Interest of the Child
All decisions regarding children are made with the child’s “best interest” in mind. There is no one factor that a judge looks at. Instead, Connecticut law and judicial opinions lay out a range of considerations, including:
- The needs of the child
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs and be involved in the child’s life
- The parent’s wishes as to custody
- The child’s preference, with more weight given the older and more mature the child is
- How long the child has lived in his or her current home environment
- The stability and safety of each parent’s home
- Each parent’s interaction with the child and the child’s siblings
- How willing each parent is to encourage the child to maintain a relationship with the other parent
- The child’s adjustment to school, community, and home
- Whether either parent has tried to manipulate the child
- Whether either parent has committed domestic violence
- Any other factor a judge thinks is relevant
As you can see, several factors consider whether you have attempted to turn your child against the other parent. If so, then you actually can hurt your chances to get custody of the children.
Connecticut law also allows nonparents to request custody. In practice, a judge will almost always side with the parent in this type of custody dispute. In fact, child custody laws in Connecticut state that there is a presumption that living with a parent is in the child’s best interest.
However, in limited situations, a nonparent can win custody.
This can occur when one parent has abandoned the child and the other parent has a substance abuse problem that endangers the child. Nonparents need to show that leaving the child with the biological parent(s) would be detrimental to the child’s welfare.
When to File for Custody
If you are married to a child’s parent, you can request custody as part of the divorce. You will want to ask for temporary custody, which will last through the duration of the divorce proceedings, as well as permanent custody once the divorce has finished.
Temporary custody orders are critical, because they establish the status quo for the length of the divorce. Connecticut judges are hesitant to rock the boat, and it is easy for a temporary order to morph into a permanent one. For this reason, parents must maintain close contact with their children during a divorce.
A judge can also decide child custody as part of a paternity dispute. Often, mothers try to establish paternity so they can get child support, but a man can also start a paternity suit to gain access to a child. After the judge decides paternity (usually with a DNA test), he will need to determine child custody.
Modifying a Custody Order
Judges are not anxious to take a second look at their custody orders and change them. However, life rarely stands still, and many parents at some point will find that the current custody inadequate. Either their life circumstances changed or the child’s needs did.
To get a judge to modify custody, the parent filing the motion will need to show that there has been a “substantial change of circumstances.” Many different things can qualify, such as:
- A parent is moving, and the current visitation schedule no longer works
- A parent’s work schedule makes the current custody order impracticable
- The child’s activity schedule conflicts with the current visitation schedule
- The child’s educational performance has deteriorated, and the custodial parent is not taking action
- A parent develops a drug or alcohol addiction
If you are seeking a modification, it is best to continue to maintain close contact with your children and to document the reasons why you want custody changed. In some situations, the other parent might agree to a modification, but often disputes break out. You want to fully document your own continuing involvement and care for your children, which will predispose a judge in your favor.
Experienced Connecticut Child Custody Attorneys
Custody laws in Connecticut are complex, and only a skilled attorney can help you build the strongest case possible for custody.
At Stanger Stanfield Law, we have represented mothers and fathers in child custody disputes, and we know how to obtain favorable results. With so much at stake, why rely on an inexperienced attorney?
For more information, reach out to us today by calling 860-323-0132 or sending us an online message. The sooner you start, the better.