Child Custody & Support FAQ

Child Custody Questions

What does child custody refer to? What are the definitions of legal and physical custody in Connecticut?

When divorced or separating couples talk about custody, they refer to two separate things: Legal and Physical Custody.

Legal custody refers to the child’s lifestyle. Religious, medical, and educational decisions are made by the legal custodian(s). Legal custody can be granted to one parent (sole custody) or both parents (joint custody.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. One parent may have sole physical custody, and the other may have visitation rights. Or, both parents may have shared physical custody, which means the child lives with each parent half of the time.

Do I have to pay child support in Connecticut?

Parents have an obligation to pay child support. The State of Connecticut is very efficient and vigilant in ensuring that children receive the financial support they are entitled to. Child support orders may be entered or modified at ANY time. In the State of Connecticut, the CONNECTICUT CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES, provide a guide in calculating child support figures. It is highly recommended that the child support is calculated correctly and has an attorney or attorney mediator prepare the guidelines accurately.

Do I have to make the modification of child support through the court in Connecticut?

Yes. If you are seeking to modify a current child support order, you should always modify CT Child Support through an official court order. Otherwise the agreement for modification between parents is not enforceable by the Court. Modification of child support orders are generally warranted when either party has an increase or decrease in gross income. Child support in CT can be modified if there is an income increase or decrease of 15% or more. If your income has been decreased, or if the other parent’s income has increased, you should immediately consult with an attorney, or you can both retain a neutral attorney mediator to determine if it would be beneficial or warranted to obtain a modification of child support orders and make such modification properly and correctly.

Do I need a child custody attorney in Connecticut?

Child custody cases tend to be the most difficult cases in family law. When parents separate and they have disputes about what is in their child’s best interest, the courts intervene. This can often turn an uncontested divorce into a hotly contested battle. Parents need to employ the services of attorney mediator with parenting coordination training, in situations where the parents have a high level of parenting conflict in order to help them negotiation and develop a custody and parenting plan that is workable and in the best interest of the children.

In a divorce with a low to medium level of custody conflict, the parents can successfully utilize the services of a child custody mediator or parenting coordinator. In cases of higher level of child custody, conflict mediation can be successful if parents are reasonable and are able to prioritize the needs of the children. Otherwise child custody litigation may be appropriate and the judge will decide the outcome.

Is there an automatic presumption that children should be with the mother in Connecticut?

CT law provides that custody and parenting determinations are to be made while preserving “the best interests of the child”. There is no automatic presumption as to who is the better parent, the mother or the father. As long as parents do not have a history of neglecting or abusing the children, either parent can be the custodial parent. The children need BOTH parents and there is absolutely no presumption in CT that one parent is better than the other.

What happens if we cannot communicate and reach agreements regarding how to parent our children?

Child custody litigation is one of the most contested, costly and emotionally devastating type of family litigation. If parents cannot reach parenting agreements, each parent hires his or her own child custody attorney. The judge will appoint a Guardian At Litem (GAL) for the minor child or children. A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child during a custody dispute. The Guardian Ad Litem builds a relationship with the child and their parents in order to investigate the family dynamics and recommend appropriate child custody and visitation arrangements that the Guardian Ad Litem believes are in the best interest of the child. To make their recommendations, the Guardian Ad Litem interviews the child, parents and anyone else involved in the child’s life such as teachers, healthcare providers, etc. Their report will be taken seriously by the court as will the testimony of any witness either parent has during the custody hearing.

How do I know if have a high level of custody conflict?

A divorce with a medium to high level of custody conflict is one in which the parents, or one of the parents, demonstrate an ongoing pattern of any of the following:

  • Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression
  • Difficulty communicating or lack of communication about the care of the minor children
  • Anger and distrust
  • Ongoing and continuous verbal abuse
  • Using the children as a conduit of parental anger and conflict

Click here to learn more about child custody conflict, how it affects children and what you can do about it.