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Connecticut Child Custody
Child Custody in Connecticut

According to the Connecticut child custody law, "In making or modifying any child custody or visitation order, the court is guided by the best interests of the child factors and also considers parties successful completion and participation in a parenting education program."

Best Interest Factors

When a court must decide custody, there are several different arrangements available. Connecticut statutes outline the different types of custody, but whatever arrangement a court chooses, it must address both aspects of custody - legal and physical. The parent(s) with legal custody have the right to raise the child as he or she wishes; the parent with physical custody has possession of the child.

Connecticut courts decide custody using the best interests of the child standard. As set forth in Connecticut General Statutes Sections 46b through 56(c), the best interest factors include:

  • each parent's ability to provide a stable environment for the child;
  • how the child is currently adjusted to his home and school environment,
  • how long the child has been living in his current environment and how stable it is;
  • whether either parent is more available to be active in the child's life,
  • any special needs the child may have;
  • whether either parent is more suited to understand and care for a special needs child;
  • the child's preference, any interference in a parent and child's relationship by the other parent; and
  • any misconduct by either parent during the custody dispute and any history of domestic violence or child abuse.

Custody Orders

When issuing a custody order, the Connecticut court rules on what is called a "parenting responsibility plan." The parents can agree to a plan, or each may submit their own and ask a court to choose the plan that better represents the child's best interests. The plan stipulates:

  • when the child will reside with each parent;
  • each parent's decision-making responsibilities as to education, religion and medical treatment;
  • dispute resolution procedures;
  • provisions addressing the child's additional needs as he or she grows up;
  • provisions for noncompliance by one or the other parent; and
  • provisions encouraging the parents to avoid conflict in the child's presence

Modification

In Connecticut, the courts modify custody orders if the requesting parent can prove that there has been a "significant change in circumstances." These significant changes include one parent relocating with the child, a change in his or her work schedule, deterioration in a parent's mental condition, including mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse, or any evidence of physical or sexual child abuse.

Joint Custody Preference

Connecticut General Statute Sections 46b - 56 define joint custody as a regime where both parents share the decision-making and have the child living with them for nearly equal amounts of time. Connecticut courts presume that joint custody is in the child's best interests because it allows the child to have a continuous, meaningful relationship with both parents. If the court does not award joint custody, the reasons for the decision must appear in the custody order.

The alternative custody arrangement is sole custody, where one parent has exclusive physical and legal custody. Lastly, a Connecticut court may choose to award split custody. Under Connecticut Agencies Regulation sections 46B through 215A-1(23), split custody means that when a couple has more than one child, each parent is awarded sole custody of at least one child.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. In deciding custody, the court considers "any misconduct by either parent during the custody dispute and any history of domestic violence or child abuse."

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