Divorce is always a difficult experience, but it can be especially complicated when children are involved. A couple with minor children must address who will retain custody, how it may be shared, and what rights and responsibilities they will have with respect to their kids and to each other. If you are ending your marriage and have questions about these issues, consider consulting child custody attorney Walter A. Shalvoy, Jr., who has served countless clients in the Connecticut area.
The standard applied by Connecticut courts is defined as “the best interests of the child.” Most parents have their own ideas about what is in the best interests of their kids, but divorcing couples do not always agree on what that is. Even when the spouses agree on what they want and formulate their own child custody proposal, a court retains the right to issue an order that diverges from the couple’s wishes.
A court will review a broad range of factors in reaching a determination about a child’s future. These may include:
None of these factors is dispositive. However, a court may give extra weight to one or more of them, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a 15-year-old child has a firm preference, or if one parent’s job requires extensive travel or irregular hours, the court may determine that those factors weigh more heavily than others in reaching its decision.
Understanding the distinction between physical custody and legal custody is critical. For example, it is possible for a court to award sole physical custody to one parent but require joint legal custody. Parents must respect the court’s orders in regard to both types of custody, and failure to comply can result in legal consequences for that parent.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives. In most cases, the court will favor joint physical custody unless there are factors that strongly weigh in favor of giving one parent sole physical custody. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parents have equal time with the child, but rather that the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent.
Legal custody means the right to make decisions regarding the child, including choices about education, medical treatment, and religious instruction. Again, Connecticut courts prefer joint legal custody, unless there are strong reasons for awarding only one parent legal custody.
Since so many factors may be involved, the outcome of child custody proceedings is never a foregone conclusion. It is often wise to enlist an experienced lawyer to advise you, whether you need help developing a custody agreement, mediating an agreement, or pursuing litigation. If you need guidance on a Connecticut child custody matter, contact divorce lawyer Walter A. Shalvoy, Jr. to set up a consultation at 203-426-4409, or use the contact form on our website.