Dissecting What Child Custody and Visitation Entails

Child custody is a legal agreement that affirms who has the right to decide for a child and where the child lives. Custody applies to kids under 18. There are two custody types—physical custody and legal custody.

Shedding Light on Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to a child's living schedule. Basically, it entails where the kid lives, sleeps, and eats. It also includes a visitation schedule. 

A judge can issue a joint physical custody order, an arrangement where the child stays with the two parents. However, the child lives with only one parent if it is sole physical custody. 

It is crucial to emphasize that joint physical custody does not mean a 50-50 arrangement. The court designs a feasible custodial time for both parents. 

Understanding Legal Custody

Legal custody entails the parent who is legally responsible for the child. It includes the right to decide on the child's general welfare, education, and healthcare. 

You can have sole legal custody, where a parent enjoys the right to decide for the child, or joint legal custody, where the two parents jointly decide for the child. 

Who Decides on the Visitation and Custody Schedule?

In the absence of a court order, both parents enjoy equal rights to physical and legal custody. If your relationship with your estranged partner is not entirely bad, you can agree on any visitation and custody arrangement suitable for both of you. 

What if I Only Want to See My Child(ren)?

You can visit and see your child while they stay with your ex. You and your estranged partner can suitably schedule visitation. For instance, you may agree on an evening weekly, or the child should spend several weeks with you during summer. You may also agree that the child should stay overnight with you once every two weeks. 

You can file for a court order on visitation if you want one. It makes the agreement formal and binding on both parties. 

What if We Disagree?

The Family Court provides free mediation via the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division. Well-trained mediators will liaise with you and your partner to enact an agreement. Those without a court issue can also take advantage of Multi-Door. 

There would be a custody trial if the Multi-Door initiative fails. Each party will attempt to argue what is in the child's best interest. The judge will consider the evidence both parties present after the trial to determine the best arrangement method for the child. 

Is a Court Order Necessary?

A court order may be necessary if you and your estranged spouse disagree on the arrangement. It is crucial if the other parent or someone else challenges your custodial rights. You may also demand a court order as a proactive approach to prevent such challenges or disagreements in the future. 

It is especially advisable to get a court order when dealing with a recalcitrant partner because it is legal and enforceable. Since a judge has ordered it, no one can disregard its provisions without consequences. 

Can I File for a Custody in Connecticut?

For a Connecticut court to determine custody, it must have the authority to hear the case. This is known as "jurisdiction." The ways a family court in Connecticut could have jurisdiction include:

  • The child lives in Connecticut as their home state when you file the custody application
  • The child has lived in Connecticut for the past six months or from birth if they are less than six months old
  • The child lived in Connecticut for a minimum of six months, someone claiming to have custody took them from the state less than six months ago, but a guardian or parent still lives in the state
  • The child and at least one parent have a substantial connection with Connecticut, and there is sufficient proof in the state about the child's training, protection, personal relationships, and care
  • The child is currently in the state, and their parent or guardian has abandoned them, or there is an emergency affecting their well-being
  • Another state does not have an interest in dealing with the issue, and it is in the child's best interests for a Connecticut court to handle it

Meeting one of these conditions allows a Connecticut court to investigate a custody issue.

How Does a Judge Determine Custody?

The judge must prioritize the child’s best interests. The law also believes that joint custody is best for the child; it is best for a kid when the two parents are involved in their upbringing. 

“If a judge believes joint custody is detrimental to a child, they can award sole custody. Particularly, judges might award sole custody when one parent is accused of things like child abuse, domestic violence, parental kidnapping, or child abandonment,” says family law attorney Matthew Dolan of Dolan Divorce Lawyers, PLLC.

Understanding What a “Child’s Best Interest” Entails 

The judge must evaluate everything based on what is best for a child to establish a child's best interests. The law mandates explicitly the judge to consider these factors in affirming a child's best interests:

  • The child’s wishes
  • The parents’ wishes
  • The child’s relationship with their parents, siblings, and others
  • The physical and psychological well-being of every party concerned
  • The child’s adjustment to their community, home, and school
  • Proof of domestic violence
  • The parents’ readiness to share custody 
  • The likely disruption of the child’s educational and social life
  • The honesty of each parent’s demands
  • The burden of parental employment

Other factors include the age and number of kids, the parents’ willingness to communicate and make shared decisions on the kid, the proximity of the parents’ homes, the initial contribution of each parent to the child's life, the parents’ ability to support a joint custody arrangement financially, and the parental benefits. 

Can Someone Other Than a Biological Parent File for Custody?

In rare situations, a third party can file for child custody. The most typical contexts where such can occur include:

  1. When the third party has the endorsement of the parent who was caring for the kid for some time in the last three years
  2. When the third party has been staying with and caring for the kid as their parent would do for four out of the last six months
  3. When the child is living with a third party and a judge needs to award custody to them to protect the child from harm

Then, the judge must decide if there are sufficient logical reasons to offer custody to someone who is not the biological parent of the child. 

How Can I Change a Visitation or Custody Order?

You can file a motion to modify custody or visitation to have the court change a visitation or custody order. However, you must argue convincingly that there have been substantial changes since the court granted the order and that your plea is in the child's best interests. 

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