In Connecticut, there are two categories of custody: (1) legal custody, which is the decision-making responsibility of each parent. It is the parent’s right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing (i.e. health care, education, religious decisions), and (2) physical custody, which is the daily care of the child. The parent who gets physical custody tends to be the primary caretaker of the child.
Additionally, custody may be sole or joint. For example, the court may award both parents physical custody (joint physical custody) or only one parent physical custody (sole physical custody). Parents may also have sole or share legal custody (i.e. the right to make major decisions). Remember, the parent that does not have physical placement of the child may have visitation rights.
The legal analysis for child custody in Connecticut is the best interests of the child. Section 46b-56 governs the law on the best interests of the child. The best interest inquiry focuses on a set of factors that the court will consider in determining the situation that will be in your child’s best interest.
The court may consider the following factors, but may make determinations outside of these factors as well:
- The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
- The capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
- Any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child;
- The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody;
- The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;
- Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
- The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments;
- The length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child’s family home pendente lite in order to alleviate stress in the household;
- The stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences, or both; The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;
- The child’s cultural background;
- The effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child;
- Whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected, as defined respectively in section 46b-120; and
- Whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program established pursuant to section 46b-69b. The court is not required to assign any weight to any of the factors that it considers, but shall articulate the basis for its decision.