Child Custody & Parenting

In cases involving minor children, custody orders must be entered by the court concerning issues pertaining to both physical and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where a minor child resides. In the case of joint or shared physical custody, the minor child spends time with each parent in a manner agreed upon by the parents or determined by the court to be in the child’s best interest. Parenting plans vary vastly, reflecting the preferences of a given family and the needs of each child. One parent may be designated the “primary physical custodian.”

Legal custody pertains to the right to make major life decisions concerning a child’s education, religious instruction and practice, medical care, and welfare. The law presumes that a child’s best interest is served when parents have joint legal custody. However, the court may in limited circumstances award sole legal custody to a parent who is permitted to make unilateral decisions as specified by the court.

Factors Influencing Child Custody Determinations

Connecticut courts use numerous factors in considering child custody arrangements, including:

  • Temperament and developmental needs of the child
  • Capacity and 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
  • Wishes of the parents as to custody
  • 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 interest of the child
  • Willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage continuing the relationship between the child and other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with court orders
  • Any manipulation or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute
  • 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
  • Length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such an environment, provided that the court considers favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child’s family home during an action in order to alleviate stress in the household
  • Stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences, or both
  • 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 interest of the child
  • The child’s cultural background
  • Effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents, or between the parent and another individual or the child
  • Whether the child or a sibling has been abused or neglected
  • Whether the parent satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program

Either parent may request that the court modify a parenting plan at any time should that plan no longer serve the best interest of the minor child. Modifications are often requested in instances such as when the custodial parent is relocating, the custodial parent becomes ill, or the custodial parent’s home is alleged to be unsafe.