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Child Custody

Westport Attorneys Provide Savvy Representation in Connecticut Child Custody Disputes

Determined advocates help you maintain a loving relationship with your child

Child custody is generally one of the hardest family law issues to resolve. Your natural instinct as a parent is to protect your child, and you are not open to compromise on that issue. But unless yours is an extreme case, where the other parent is a threat to your child, some level of compromise is inevitable because it is in your child’s best interest. At Needle | Cuda, in Westport, we guide parents through the process of developing a parenting plan that protects their rights and advances their child’s best interests. Through negotiations and mediation, we work to achieve your goals for your child’s future. However, when a negotiated solution is not possible or advisable, we are prepared to fight aggressively to deliver the results you need.

Basics of Connecticut child custody law

Most child custody actions come as part of divorce proceedings. But as more couples choose not to marry and more children are born out of wedlock, more stand-alone child custody actions have been filed. A parent can initiate a child custody action by filing a Custody/Visitation Application (JD-FM-161) with the Superior Court Clerk.

Under Connecticut law, there are two separate types of child custody, which a court can award to one parent (sole) or be shared by both parents (joint):

  • Legal custody — The legal authority to make important decisions affecting the child’s health and welfare
  • Physical custody — Rights and responsibilities related to providing a residence for the child and tending to the child’s physical need for shelter, clothing, food, and so on

Parents can negotiate a parenting responsibility plan, which they present to the court for approval. To be accepted by the court, the plan must include the following provisions:

  • A schedule detailing where the child will live during the year
  • Instructions allocating decision-making authority (legal custody) to either parent or both parents for the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing
  • A mechanism for resolving future disputes in the exercise of legal custody if that custody is to be shared
  • A mechanism for dealing with either parent’s failure to honor responsibilities under the plan
  • A mechanism for adapting to the child’s needs as they change over time

Parents must pledge to minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict, meet their responsibilities through agreement whenever possible, and protect their child’s best interests.

In most cases, a parenting agreement is the best way to settle your custody issues. When you reach an agreement through negotiation or mediation, you have greater control over the result than if you had left the decision to a judge. Even if you don’t get everything you want, a compromise that you are both committed to is often better than a one-sided victory that alienates the loser. Your agreement is more likely to work because you are more likely to get cooperation from the other parent than you would if the judge had ruled in your favor, leaving your ex with a bitter defeat.

However, there are cases where compromise is impossible and might even endanger your children. If parents do not come together on a parenting plan, the issue must go to trial before a judge.

How Connecticut courts decide child custody disputes

When deciding child custody issues, the guiding principle for the court is the best interests of the child. Parental rights take a back seat, as the court examines the facts in light of numerous statutory factors, which include:

  • The child’s temperament and developmental needs
  • The parents’ capacity and the disposition to understand and meet the child’s needs
  • Any relevant information the child supplies, including his or her informed preferences
  • The parents’ wishes as to custody
  • The child’s relationships with each parent, siblings and any other significant person
  • Each parent’s willingness to facilitate a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • A parent’s manipulation or coercive behavior drawing the child into the parents’ dispute
  • Each parent’s ability to be actively involved in the child’s life
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the importance of continuity
  • The stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences
  • All parties’ mental and physical health
  • The child’s cultural background
  • If any domestic violence has occurred, the effect of an abuser’s actions on the child
  • Whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected
  • Whether a party has satisfactorily completed a parenting education program

As your attorneys, we are your advocates. It is our task is to bring to the court’s attention all pertinent facts that support your goals for your child and to argue persuasively that your proposed custody plan advances the best interests of your child.

Contact our Westport, CT child custody lawyers for savvy and straightforward legal counsel.

If you are embroiled in a child custody dispute in Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda is ready to help. We provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. To reserve a consultation, call us today at 203-429-4151 or contact our Westport office online.

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