New Canaan Child Custody Lawyer

Going through a divorce or a separation is rarely easy, and for parents (especially parents of young children), it can be especially challenging. You need to be ready to address custody and visitation. It is normal to be stressed out, even overwhelmed by the process. When parents file for divorce, child custody issues are often the top concern. Questions we often hear include:

  • Who will the child live with after the divorce is finalized?
  • How much time will I get to spend with my child?
  • What factors will the court take into consideration in determining such issues?
  • Do Connecticut judges favor situations in which both parents remain equally involved in raising the child?
  • Do Connecticut judges favor mothers versus fathers? What about non-working parents versus working parents?
  • How will important decisions regarding our children be made in the event of disagreements?

These are all important questions, and below we briefly outline how the law views child-related issues within a divorce. As always, our Connecticut family law attorneys with years of experience focusing on child custody matters, are available to support you in this process. If you have any specific questions or concerns, we are more than happy to help. Contact the New Canaan child custody lawyers at The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann to schedule a strictly confidential initial consultation.

Child Custody and Parenting Time Explained

The term “child custody” can generally be broken down into two distinct categories; legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision-making rights with respect to major decisions concerning a child, for example, decisions regarding a child's education, health/medical treatment, and religious upbringing. Notably, the vast majority of Connecticut parents share joint legal custody. It tends to be the exception, rather than the rule, for one parent to have sole legal custody.

Physical custody refers to a child's residential schedule with either parent.  What was once called “visitation,” is now generally referred to as “parenting time.”  Parenting time refers to the actual time during which a parent is responsible for the care of a child and any routine day-to-day decision-making responsibilities with respect to that child.

Connecticut Favors Some form of Shared Parenting (Joint Legal Custody)

In Connecticut, there is a general overriding presumption that it is best for children if both of their parents are actively involved in their life. For this reason, state courts favor some form of shared parenting (joint legal custody) following a divorce or a separation. Parents are encouraged to work together to come to custody & visitation that works effectively for their family.

However, that is not to say that sole custody can never be awarded. Quite the contrary, Connecticut courts have the power to award one parent sole custody if doing so is deemed in the best interests of the child. If you have any specific questions about sole custody or joint custody, please do not hesitate to contact our New Canaan-based family law attorneys for immediate help.

Connecticut Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between two parents that lays out each parent's rights and responsibilities concerning the custody and care of their children. A parenting plan typically includes provisions addressing legal custody (i.e., decision-making), as well as a detailed parenting schedule.

No two parenting plans are exactly alike. The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann is committed to helping families in Fairfield County, Connecticut negotiate and craft Parenting Plans specifically tailored to address the unique needs of any particular family, and in a manner that preserves and protects the safety and well-being of children.

Best Interests of the Child

Divorcing parents are, of course, free to resolve all custodial issues through the negotiation and execution of a comprehensive parenting plan. If parents cannot reach an agreement on custodial issues, a judge will make determinations regarding allocation of decision-making responsibilities and parenting time based upon what is in the child's best interests. Some of the factors a court will consider in making custody determinations that are in the best interests of a child include but are not limited to, the following:

  • The temperament and developmental needs of the child
  • The capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child
  • Any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child
  • The wishes of the child's parents as to custody
  • 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
  • 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
  • Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents to involve the child in the parents' dispute
  • The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments
  • 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 pending litigation to alleviate stress in the household
  • The stability of the child's existing or proposed residences, or both
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or another 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
  • The child's cultural background

In applying the ‘best interests of the child' standard to any given case, a Connecticut court will always look closely at the unique circumstances of the particular case and consider the totality of the circumstances when making custody determinations.

If you are involved in a custody or visitation dispute in Connecticut, it is crucial that you present a strong, well-articulated case that you can provide a happy, healthy, and stable home for your children. If you have any questions about the best interests of the child standard, our New Canaan child custody attorneys are here to help.

Child Custody and Unmarried Parents: Paternity is Key

The Connecticut child custody laws are gender-neutral. In effect, this means that both mothers and fathers have a right to seek custody of and access to their children. That being said, unmarried fathers may face some additional obstacles. A father must establish legal paternity for a child before he can file for custody or visitation. For married fathers, paternity is relatively straightforward. A man is automatically presumed to be the legal father of his wife's child: No other action is required.

On the other hand, an unmarried dad must take proactive action to prove paternity. If there is no dispute over the child's parentage, established paternity does not have to be challenging. As explained by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, unmarried fathers can use the state's voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form.

However, this form must be signed and submitted by both parents. It cannot be used if the child's mother refuses to sign. If there is a dispute over a child's parentage, a father must take action to establish and protect his parental rights. In some cases, genetic testing of the child may even be required.

You Can Rely on Our Connecticut Child Custody Attorneys

Child custody & visitation cases are complex. You do not have to navigate the legal process on your own. At The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann, we represent parents with the highest level of care and compassion. When you reach out to our New Canaan office, you will have an opportunity to speak to a Connecticut child custody lawyer who will:

  • Hear your story and answer your questions
  • Explain your rights and options under the Connecticut child custody laws
  • Gather all evidence and information you need to proceed
  • Represent you in child custody & visitation negotiations
  • Take action to protect your parental rights and help you obtain the best outcome

We know that parents want to find amicable solutions to custody and visitation cases. Our attorneys also know that your parental rights must be protected. With extensive experience representing parents in Connecticut, we have a long record of testimonials from clients. Our legal team is ready to put in the time and energy to understand your case and develop a plan of action that works

Connect with one of our Experienced New Canaan Child Custody Lawyers

At The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann, our Connecticut child custody attorneys have the professional skills and legal knowledge that you can trust in a complex family law case. If you have questions about child custody and parenting time in Connecticut, the child custody lawyers at The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann can help.

Schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with one of our New Canaan child custody lawyers, please call 203-652-8018. With an office in New Canaan, we represent parents throughout Fairfield County, including in Stamford, Bridgeport, Newtown, Trumbull, Stratford, Monroe, Darien, Bethel, Norwalk, Shelton, and Danbury.

The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot

The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot is a boutique firm devoted exclusively to the practice of family law, including divorce, alimony, child support, property distribution, child custody and access, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, modifications and enforcement proceedings.