Westport Family Law Attorney
Few people are prepared to relinquish any rights to their children as the result of a divorce. However, certain compromises need to be made with regards to whether joint custody is a possibility, or if sole custody with other parent visitation rights is the answer. In Connecticut, sole custody, joint custody, and third-party custody are the most common arrangements that allow for the child’s needs to be provided for. Divorcing with children does not always need to result in a “custody battle,” so to speak. With experienced legal representation during your divorce, it is entirely possible to come to a custody arrangement that works for all involved parties, including, most importantly, your children.
Types of Custody
“Custody” really has two components. Most people think about custody in terms of physical custody, i.e. where the child will reside most of the time. However, legal custody is also a consideration. Whichever parent or party has legal custody of the child is the one that has the legal right to make important decisions on the child’s behalf until they reach the age of 18. These decisions may include educational, financial, medical, or spiritual decisions, or determinations about groups and organizations the child should be a part of. The determination of who should have physical and/or legal custody of the marital children is dependent on the circumstances of the family. The courts will always try to preserve a relationship between the children and both of the parents if possible. This may mean that one individual has sole custody, in the sense that they have the right to make the decisions on the child’s behalf, but that the other parent has visitation and/or vacation rights to see the child as well.
The determination of which custody arrangement is appropriate for the particular family is made by an analysis of the best interest of the child. This is a legal determination made by the courts that considers, among other things, the pre-existing family dynamic, the physical and mental needs of the parties involved, the financial and employment status of the parents, the desires of the child, and the desires of the parents. This determination is made by compromise of the parties, discussion with the judge, and sometimes, third party input from a court-appointed neutral attorney called a guardian ad litem.
True “sole custody” means that only one parent is responsible for the well-being and important decisions governing the child’s life. The child will live with that custodial parent exclusively, but the other parent may have visitation rights. One of the few circumstances that would warrant one person being given sole custody where the other parent must relinquish all rights is in the instance of home abuse, neglect, or previous sexual crimes that may make the non-custodial parent unfit to care for the child. The involvement of both parents is preferable, however, if possible.
Considerations of Sole Custody
Sole custody is beneficial for parents in that it does not involve the back-and-forth dropping, picking up, switching weekends schedule that is typical among joint custody arrangements. The final decision-making authority is vested in only one parent. This is both good and bad—the decisions are easier to make, but the custodial parent may receive resistance from a non-custodial parent who thinks they should have a say in their child’s upbringing, despite the court’s order. As for the children, children in a sole custody relationship are better able to maintain a schedule and younger children are not as confused with the back-and-forth characteristic of joint custody arrangements. On the other hand, true sole custody severs a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, which can result in behavioral issues or psychological concerns. Even if the child gets to see the non-custodial parent on occasion, the child may be confused as to their parents’ relationship or desire to spend more time with the non-custodial parent, which can also lead to conflict.
Joint custody is where the important decisions on behalf of the child are made by both parents. The child will likely split time nearly equally between the homes of both parents and maintain a relationship with both parents. Some joint custody arrangements still have the child living primarily with one of the parents, but the parents still share in the decision-making on behalf of the child and the other parent is granted visitation rights. Often, the parents will agree on dividing up time with the children for summer vacation, family vacations, and holidays. Joint custody may become complicated if the parties re-marry or wish to relocate geographically.
Considerations of Joint Custody
Though it is the most common form of custody, joint custody requires compromise and scheduling. Sticking to a prearranged schedule is critical, not just for the parents, but for the children as they adjust to their parents being divorced. When the child is with one parent, that parent may have different “house rules” than the other, which may result in the child desiring to spend more time at that particular parent’s house, which may or may not be in accordance with the arrangement. Keeping on schedule, and making few “exceptions” and last minute changes is the best way to ensure a successful joint custody arrangement for all people involved.
Other Custody Arrangements
In certain cases, neither parent is fit or desires to care for the child after the divorce. In these rare instances, a grandparent, godparent, or other family member may be granted custody of the child. Consistent with considering both sole and joint custody, the primary consideration is always the best interest of the child. The outcome of the custody determination is based solely on these considerations, whether the ultimate result be joint, shared, or an alternative custody arrangement.
Westport, Connecticut Family Law Attorney
With all of the financial, personal, and emotional challenges divorce may cause, it is critical to know that your children’s well-being is being considered. Experienced Connecticut family law attorney Richard H. Raphael, Attorney at Law has the knowledge necessary to navigate all kinds of divorce claims, whether they involve children or not. For those who are divorcing with children, he is experienced in child custody arrangements, child support payments, and child custody modifications in Connecticut courts. Contact his convenient Westport, Connecticut office at 203-226-6168 to learn more about how to preserve your family dynamic despite the changes that come with a divorce.