Conn. legislature exploring child custody issues

A Connecticut legislative task force studied shared child custody, deciding by majority not to recommend the presumption that a 50-50 division of child time between two parents is in the child's best interest, unless the parents agree otherwise or there is evidence of neglect or abuse.

The task force issued its January 2014 report after considering public testimony and correspondence, legal and mental health literature, Connecticut and other states' law and cases, recommendations of professional associations and more.

Shared custody

The idea of shared custody (50-50 parental child time split) has been embraced by those concerned about fathers' rights, since historically courts have granted more time with mothers. Shared custody advocates argue that kids do better with both parents and that presuming shared custody preserves money to use for children's needs, rather than for litigation.

Opposition to shared custody was reflected in testimony before the task force of a psychologist with child custody experience. Dr. Mary Cheyne said that rather than a presumed 50-50 arrangement, parenting time should be tailored to unique family needs; that the schedule needs to evolve as a child grows and changes; and that a child may have a good reason not to want to spend half of his or her time with a particular parent.

At least for now, it appears that shared custody will probably not move forward on the legislative agenda, given the task force's opinion.

Connecticut child custody generally

Child custody determines which parent will have power to make life decisions for the child like those concerning education, religion, medical matters and so forth - this is called "legal custody." The other part of custody is "physical custody," meaning with which parent will the child live and how will time be spent with both parents.

Both legal and physical custody can be held jointly by both parents or solely by one, and the two types do not have to be decided the same. For example, a common arrangement is for one parent to have sole physical custody with the other having rights to visitation with the child and joint legal custody in which the parents make major decisions for the child together.

How custody arrangements look can vary widely depending on the particular needs of the child and the family situation.

In a divorce, custody can be negotiated as part of a marital settlement agreement, but it still has to be approved by the state court judge handling the divorce. If the parents cannot agree on the terms of custody and visitation, the judge must apply Connecticut law to craft an arrangement after considering the evidence.

The child's best interests

Child custody in Connecticut is determined first and foremost by the best interests of the child and also by:

  • The family situation
  • Equity
  • Parental rights and responsibilities
  • Involvement of each parent with the child based on abilities and interests
  • The needs of the family members
  • And more

Connecticut law directs a judge in a custody decision to delve into the child's best interests by weighing any relevant factor, including those from a list that includes:

  • The child's "temperament and developmental needs"
  • The parents' ability to meet those needs
  • The child's preferences
  • The parents' preferences
  • The child's relationships
  • Abuse or neglect
  • The child's adjustment to the current living situation and how long it has existed
  • Everyone's mental and physical health
  • Stability of each parent's home
  • And more

Anyone in Connecticut facing custody issues should seek the advice of a knowledgeable family lawyer.