Westport Custody & Visitation Lawyers
Experienced Visitation Attorneys Representing Clients in Fairfield County Since 1982
Custody and visitation arrangements are often difficult and emotional issues between parents. Hopefully, every parent’s goal is to provide a loving and stable home for their children. But, differing views or values can lead to anxiety over how separate households will affect the parent-child relationship.
At Rutkin, Oldham & Griffin, the welfare of children is of paramount importance. Our experienced visitation lawyers are advocates for putting children first and can help you argue for an appropriate parenting plan that prioritizes your child’s best interests and needs. We have a reputation for pursuing every possible solution — even testifying before the legislature — to help our clients maintain strong, healthy parent-child relationships throughout and after divorce. Our family law attorneys have successfully handled a substantial number of highly contentious custody battles since our firm’s inception in 1982.
Custody & Visitation in Connecticut
Like other states, Connecticut law requires that child custody arrangements be based on what is in the best interests of the child. While courts will consider parents’ wishes, those wishes are secondary to the well-being of the child. Parents have the option to reach custody and visitation agreements (also known as “parenting plans”) by themselves, through formal negotiations, or through mediation. However, these agreements must be approved by a judge who will determine if they meet the child’s needs. When parents cannot come to an agreement, the court must decide.
There are two important dimensions to custody arrangements:
- Legal custody: This refers to the right to make important life decisions for the child, such as those regarding education, religion, and health care..
- Physical custody: This refers to where and with whom the child primarily resides. This parent is generally called the “custodial” parent, while the other parent is called the “noncustodial parent.”
Either type of custody may be awarded on a joint or sole basis. Courts generally favor joint legal custody which allows children to have important decisions made by both parents. to convince a court to order sole legal custody, compelling evidence must be shown to prove that a joint arrangement would be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Such evidence might be based on a parent’s serious mental health, substance abuse, or criminal activity, or a history of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
In joint physical custody agreements, where the parents share time with the child, one parent may be awarded a greater amount of time with a child, while the other parent has less parenting time, or it may be a closely equal time arrangement. A parenting plan must be established which will specify a schedule of overnights with both parents, and details such as to how holidays, vacations, birthdays, and other events will be managed.
How Do Courts Determine Custody in Connecticut?
Courts review many factors when determining custody and visitation/parenting time.
These can include but are not limited to:
- The needs of the child
- The ability of each parent to meet those needs and care for the child
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- How custody will affect the child’s interaction with siblings, school, social activities, community, and more
- The willingness of the parents to foster a continuing and meaningful relationship with the other parent, including their willingness to follow relevant court orders
- How actively involved each parent has been in the child’s life
- The stability of the proposed homes
- The health of all involved individuals in the matter
- The parents’ wishes
- The child’s wishes if they are old enough to have an informed opinion
At What Age Can a Child Make Custody Decision in Connecticut?
Connecticut has no complex law on what age a child can have their custody decision considered. A child's wants are just one of many considerations evaluated by the family court in a custody case in Connecticut. For example, a judge will give more significance and consideration to an older child's request than a toddler's.
Once custody and visitation/parenting plan orders are issued by the court, they become legally binding. Parents who violate these orders may face legal consequences. Modifications of these orders may be sought through the courts based on compelling evidence that justifies the change. The courts have jurisdiction to modify custodial orders until the child reaches age 18.
Our Experienced Westport Visitation Lawyers Can Help
Aside from the many decades of legal practice shared by our attorneys, our firm brings an invaluable breadth of experience. We have a successful history of resolving even the most difficult, complex, and contentious custody cases for clients. If you need legal assistance for a child custody or visitation/parenting plan agreement, we encourage you to discuss your needs with one of our attorneys.
We understand that no two family law cases are alike. While our clients may be going through similar processes, each case brings a different set of circumstances involving family dynamics, personal histories, financial matters, specific legal needs, emotional challenges, and more. What works for one client may not work for you. We approach each case by taking the time to thoroughly understand all of the details of your unique situation. Our strategies can then be thoughtfully tailored to serve your specific goals and purposes.