Child custody and visitation rights present complicated situations for parents and guardians. However, many forget that non-parental family members and other persons may have a claim for visitation and custody of a minor child. In 2012, the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives passed Public Act No. 12-137 which specifically governs the visitation rights of grandparents and other persons.
Under Public Act No. 12-137 any person, including a grandparent, can submit a petition for visitation rights. The Connecticut courts can grant a right of visitation if the court, in its best judgment, finds that the grant of visitation would be both equitable and not contingent upon a court order of financial support by the person requesting visitation. When determining whether such visitation should be granted, the court will act in the best interests of the child, while also considering the wishes of the child. However, the wishes of the child consideration will only be made if the child has the ability to form an intelligent opinion, and is of sufficient age.
Though any person can technically submit a right of visitation, the petition must comply with specific requirements. Specifically, all child visitation petitions must include two good faith allegations. First, it must be alleged that the petitioner is engaged in a parent-like relationship with the minor child. Second, there must be a good faith allegation that denial of the visitation petition would result in real and significant harm to the minor child. Real and significant harm occurs if the child is or has been “neglected” (this includes abandonment, denial of proper care or attention, or a living situation that is injurious to that child’s well being). Real and significant harm also includes when a child is “uncared for” (this label is placed if the child is either homeless, or his or her home cannot provide the necessary specialized care that the child requires).
If a visitation petition is approved, the court will define the conditions and terms of the visitation. The terms that the court can define include creating a visitation schedule, and a determination of specific places where visitation can occur. It is important to be aware that even if visitation rights have been granted, this does not provide the petitioner with parental rights. Furthermore, a grant of visitation does not prevent a custodial parent from relocating outside of Connecticut. Lastly, visitation rights under the law cannot prevent a non-Connecticut court from making its own visitation determinations regarding the custody of the child.
Connecticut child custody and visitation laws aim to look out for the best wishes and interests of a minor child. As a result, in certain situations non-parentals may have a lawful claim to visitation. If you feel this is the case you should contact the knowledgeable family law attorneys at our law firm in Fairfield County, Connecticut for answers to all of your child custody and visitation needs.