Dealing with the process of going through a divorce is never easy and the emotional and mental toll it can take on a couple is only increased when they also have to make decisions regarding the custody of their children. Most states, including Connecticut, will encourage parents to work together to form a parenting plan that will benefit their children and also work for their personal schedules. Should they be unable to do this they will need to go to court to have a custody arrangement set for them – this often leads to a long, painful custody battle in the courtroom that can be an even more difficult experience.
Child Custody Laws in Connecticut
When Connecticut family court judges are deciding child custody disputes, they will always base their decisions on the best interests of the children who are involved. Even though each case is evaluated individually, judges in Connecticut will always begin their assessment under the assumption that involvement from both parents is in the best interest of the child or children. There are a number of factors that are considered when making this decision and some are even set by state laws.
Types of Child Custody in Connecticut
Since Connecticut judges will always work to keep both parents involved in the child or children’s lives, they often move to grant joint custody to both parents. Joint custody could mean one of three things – joint physical custody where both parents have time with the children, joint legal custody where both parents have the responsibility and right to make important decisions about the children’s upbringing, or a combination of both joint physical and joint legal custody to keep both parents actively involved.
When making a decision toward joint custody or another custody arrangement, the family court judge will take a look at some of following question and take them into consideration:
- Have the parents developed a parenting plan on their own for a joint custody agreement?
- How close are the parents living/planning to live to one another to make a joint physical custody arrangement feasible?
- Are both parents willing to communicate and work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children?
- Are both parents willing to encourage a positive relationship between the children and the other parent?
- Do either of the parents have an abusive history, including child abuse, spousal abuse, or abuse of a household member?
What Determines Child Custody in Connecticut
Family court judges in Connecticut take child custody issues very seriously and often making a decision about who will care for the children can be a difficult one to make – this is especially true when a joint custody arrangement is not possible. When making a decision about which parent will have primary custody of the children, judges will evaluate both parents, their situation, and their ability to properly care for the children in both a physical and emotional manner. Additionally, the judge will need to decide what type of visitation arrangement will be assigned to the non-custodial parent.
Connecticut judges will evaluate each parent’s morals, characteristics, financial situation, and overall child care abilities when deciding who will have physical custody of the children in question. In addition to these important factors, judges will also look at a number of other dynamics when making a decision:
- Which parent is more financially able to provide for the child’s needs, including shelter, food and clothing
- Which parent is most physically capable of caring for the child
- Which parent is most willing and able to invest time in the child’s educational opportunities
- Which parent is most suited to making important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including health and medical decisions, educational decisions, and decisions regarding relationships with family members, peers, and members of the community
- Which parent is most willing and most likely to properly follow the child custody agreement while also encouraging a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent
Connecticut court judges have also been known to grant visitation time to grandparents and other important individuals in the children’s lives, especially if this is found to be in the children’s best interest. In some cases, the judge will determine the children having a primary residence with one parent and visitation time with another is more beneficial for them than a joint custody arrangement. Again, family courts will always do what they find to be best for the children when it comes to custody – in some cases, this means that one, and sometimes both, parents do not get the arrangement they desire.
Child Custody Modification in Connecticut
If a child custody arrangement is not working out, whether the parents agreed to it on their own or the court system assigned it, both parents have the right to request a modification to the current agreement. In order for this modification to be legally binding, the parent who wishes to make the modification will have to submit a request to family court. At that time, the burden of proof as to why this modification needs to be made and why it is beneficial for the children lies with the parent making the request. The standards for approval for modifications are high and include proving:
- That a significant change in circumstances for the requesting parent have occurred since the agreement was last reviewed by the court
- That the modification to the child custody arrangement will benefit the children in an impactful way
- That the disturbances caused by the child custody modification will be outweighed by the benefits that the children will reap from the change
Connecticut family court judges and some child mental health professionals agree that reoccurring disturbances to a child’s schedule and routine can often have a negative impact on their emotional and mental state. Because of this, court systems attempt to keep modifications to a minimum in order to avoid having the children’s life disturbed for unnecessary reasons, which is why the requesting parent carries such a heavy burden of proof in order to get the modification approved by the court.
Child Custody and Relocation in Connecticut
Just like a child custody arrangement modification, a relocation request will need to be submitted to the court. There are a number of reasons why a parent may wish to relocate from the current home and take the children – a promotion within a current job or job change, wanting to be closer to immediate family members, or providing better educational and social opportunities for the children are all reasons why a parent may request relocation approval. Just like a modification however, the burden of proving why the relocation will be beneficial will reside with the parent making the request.
When the relocation request is being considered in Connecticut court, the judge will look at a number of different aspects of the possible relocation as well as some other factors surrounding the child custody agreement and the children’s well-being. Some of the additional factors will include:
- The ages and genders of the children involved in the case
- Whether or not any of the children involved have any special physical or learning needs
- The dynamics of the relationship between the children and the parent who is making the request
- The dynamics of the relationship between the children and the parent who is not making the request
- The reason the requesting parent believes the move will be in the best interests of the children
- The cost and availability of alternative communication measures between the children and the other parent
- Whether or not the other parent has any concerns about the relocation
- The children’s preferences of whether or not they want to move and who they want to live with, depending on their ages