What Are the Child Custody Laws in Connecticut?

The facts on joint custody, the needs of the child and more

Mother and daughter hugging
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The finer details of custody laws can differ from state to state. Your friend might have one experience with the court system in California while your own experience is marginally different or even much different in Connecticut. All states base custody decisions on what the court feels ​is in the best interests of the child involved – not necessarily on what might make the parents happy – but they can define those best interests differently. If you're facing a breakup in Connecticut, here's what you need to know about the laws here. 

Joint Custody

Connecticut statutes define joint custody as both parents having decision-making rights regarding the welfare of their child and the child living with each of them roughly an equal amount of time. Decision-making rights are referred to as "legal custody." The term "physical custody" refers to how the child divides his time between his parents' homes. A family court's award of joint custody will determine where the child will physically live and when, and the court will also make a determination regarding how major decisions regarding his health, education, and religious needs will be made.

Connecticut statutes favor joint legal custody whenever possible. Sometimes it's simply too disruptive for the child to regularly move back and forth between parents' homes to allow for a 50/50 split physical custody arrangement.

Parental Agreements 

Parents are always free to reach their own agreement regarding custody arrangements and submit the agreement to the court for approval and incorporation into a divorce decree or court order. A judge will almost invariably give the agreement his OK unless it contains some provision that he clearly finds to be harmful to the child. If parents agree to joint custody and ask for it, the arrangement will almost certainly be granted, but if the judge finds that this isn't in the best interests of the child for some reason, he can decline the request and order a different custody arrangement. 

Alternative Arrangements

If a Connecticut family court does not order joint custody, it may order alternative custody arrangements, such as awarding sole physical custody to one parent with appropriate visitation for the child with the non-custodial parent. This might happen in cases where a 50/50 living arrangement simply isn't appropriate. Sole legal custody might be granted to one parent if the other is deemed incapable of contributing to important decisions, perhaps due to a drug or alcohol problem or abuse. Connecticut will only order sole custody when it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. 

Factors Considered When Determining Custody 

In reaching a custody decision in Connecticut, the court will consider the following factors which are considered to be in the child's best interests: 

  • The needs of the child
  • Each parent's ability to understand the needs of the child
  • The child's preference and information obtained from the child
  • Each parent's preference
  • The child's past and current relationship with each parent
  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The child's cultural background
  • Any history of abuse
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Whether either parent participated in a parenting education program
  • The mental and physical health of all involved parties

Additional Court-Ordered Testing 

A Connecticut family court may order parents to undergo counseling, or drug or alcohol screening if the court deems such tests to be in the best interests of the child. A judge might also order a custody evaluation in complex situations where a trained therapist or counselor will meet with the family and ultimately make a custody recommendation to the judge. 

Parents who have questions about child custody or custody proceedings should speak with an attorney or refer to the Connecticut child custody statutes.