By law, child custody arrangements are determined based on what is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
Connecticut Family Court Judges must consider a broad range of statutory factors when determining what is in a child’s best interests and their formulation of the related custody orders. Judges have an enormous amount of discretion in weighing and balancing statutory factors when forming their court orders, which sixteen (16) factors include:
(1) The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
(2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
(3) any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child;
(4) the wishes of the child’s parents as to custody;
(5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;
(7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
(8) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
(9) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments;
(10) the length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child’s family home pendente lite in order to alleviate stress in the household;
(11) the stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences, or both;
(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;
(13) the child’s cultural background;
(14) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child;
(15) whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected; and
(16) whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program.
Family Court Judges tend to favor orders that allow both parents to co-parent, and both actively participate, but this does not always mean equally.
Parents can negotiate and enter into child custody arrangements and parenting plans by agreement. In most cases, far better results are achieved by parents who manage to negotiate a child custody agreement/parenting plan through compromise than to go to trial and have a family judge decide.