FAIRFIELD COUNTY CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEYS
Many parents come to our law firm with questions about Connecticut child custody laws and to learn if they can seek sole custody. While some parents wish to obtain sole custody for legitimate reasons that put their child first, other parents fail to consider their child’s interests when seeking sole custody. Children are extremely vulnerable during custody disputes among married or unmarried parents. The manner in which decisions are made now can significantly shape your child’s future both physically and emotionally.
Our Fairfield County child custody lawyers at our law firm, strive to find child custody and parenting solutions that meet your goals for restructuring life after divorce or separation and to keep your child’s needs and best interests at the forefront of all decisions. Sometimes, this means being forthright with a client who wishes to obtain sole custody in order to deprive the other parent of his or her rights. Other times, it means investigating the case thoroughly, calling on experts and demonstrating to the court that awarding sole custody to one parent is the only way to serve the best interests of the child.
Connecticut Lawyers Helping You Understand Physical and Legal Custody
Child custody encompasses the daily upbringing of children, access to provide parental support and guidance, decision-making responsibilities and all other aspects of being a parent. Connecticut courts distinguish between legal custody and physical custody — both of which must be addressed in any parenting plan or child custody action.
Legal custody: Legal custody refers to a parent’s responsibility to make decisions such as decisions regarding health care, education, religious upbringing and other major life decisions that affect the child’s well-being. Courts often presume that it is in a child’s best interest to award joint legal custody.
Physical custody: For many parents, physical custody is understood as the parent with primary residential custody — the parent with whom the child resides. However, physical custody also refers to the division of parent access time or parenting time. While courts may award joint physical custody or sole physical custody, the general belief is that children benefit from having meaningful time shared with each parent. The allocation of time can be negotiated and thoroughly defined in a parental access plan.
Is Sole Custody in Your Child’s Best Interests?
There are situations where sole custody may be in the best interests of the child or children, such as if one parent has a history as being physically abusive or chemically dependent. A parent may also question whether the other parent is unfit due to mental instability or other reasons. When determining child custody, the court takes into consideration a number of factors to identify what is truly in the best interests of the child. Some of the factors considered include:
- Past relationships and interaction between each parent and the child
- The ability of a parent to be actively involved in the child’s life
- The willingness of a parent to encourage and facilitate a meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent
- Manipulative or coercive behavior, such as parental alienation by either parent
- The child’s adjustment to a particular school, home and community
- Many other factors
- What Is a Guardian ad Litem or Attorney for the Minor Child?
“Typically, the child’s attorney is an advocate for the child, while the guardian ad litem is the representative of the child’s best interests.” Newman v. Newman, 235 Conn. 82, 96, 663 A.2d 980 (1995)
When child custody is disputed, the court will initiate a custody study through the family relations office of the court and appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) and/or an attorney for the minor child/children (ATM) or both. The GAL or ATM will conduct a thorough investigation that involves interviewing parents, interviewing and observing children and interviewing third parties such as teachers, care-takers, doctors and other individuals. If the GAL cannot convince the parents to compromise on a parenting plan, then the GAL provides the court with testimony and a suggested detailed parenting plan which is a reflection of what the GAL feels is in the best interest of the children. For older children, an ATM is usually appointed to advocate for the child/children’s desires regarding the parenting plan.
Discuss Your Situation With Our Fairfield County Child Custody Lawyers
Child custody is a delicate issue that must be handled with great care. Our attorneys understand the importance of keeping your children’s interests a priority whether we guide you through amicable custody negotiations, advise you regarding child custody mediation or represent you in custody litigation. When it is necessary to take a child custody case to trial, we build a strong case using our nearly six decades of trial experience, independent experts and our determination to demonstrate to the courts what you know is right.
From our offices in Norwalk, Connecticut, our divorce and custody attorneys represent individuals in family law matters in Greenwich, Stamford, Wilton and communities throughout Fairfield County. Call us or contact our Connecticut law firm by e-mail for a complimentary initial consultation with a skilled child custody attorney.