Protecting A Child’s Best Interests When Determining Custody
In any dispute involving custody of a minor child or children between a parent and a non-parent, there shall be a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of parent. There shall also be a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a minor child where the parents have agreed or so agree in open court at a hearing for the purpose of determining the custody of the minor child or children of the marriage. A court may award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody where the parents have agreed to merely joint legal custody.In any proceeding before the Superior Court involving a dispute between the parents of a minor child with regard to the custody, care, education and upbringing of a child, the parents are obliged to file with the court a proposed parental responsibility plan that shall minimally include 1). The schedule of the child’s physical residence during the year; 2). Provisions allocating decision-making authority to one or both parents regarding the child’s health, education and religious upbringing; 3). Provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents; 4). Provisions for dealing with parent’s failure to honor responsibilities; 5). Provisions for dealing with the children’s changing needs; 6). Provisions for minimizing the child’s exposure to potential parental conflict and generally, protecting the best interest of the child.Connecticut General Statute section 46b-69b requires the parties to attend a parenting education program which has been approved by the court unless they meet specific criteria set forth in the statute.Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute section 46b-56 (c), the best interests of the child invite consideration of the following: 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 …; 16). Whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program established pursuant to section 46b-69b. The court is not required to assign weight to any of the factors it considers.