When parents divorce or decide to live separately, they must decide where their children will live and how they will co-parent. A court must review the parents’ agreements to ensure that they support and benefit the children.

If the parents cannot agree on child support, custody, visitation, and decision-making authority, a court will decide what is best. The law requires them to choose the solution in the children’s best interests.

Parents considering divorce or living apart should know what factors are essential in determining the best interest of the child in Connecticut. A knowledgeable child custody attorney can help parents understand how the courts decide what is best for a child.

Law Defines the Best Interest Standard

Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56 describes how and when a judge must consider the child’s best interests. The law presumes a meaningful relationship with each parent is best for a child. A parent who seeks to limit a child’s contact with the other parent must present proof that denying connection is in the child’s best interest.

Factors a Court Must Consider

The law lists 17 factors a court in Connecticut could evaluate when deciding a child’s best interests, and grants the power to consider other factors the judge deems relevant. The mental and physical health of the child and each parent are important. The court can contemplate the child’s and parents’ preferences, but other factors are equally relevant.

A judge must take into account the child’s temperament and needs and each parent’s capacity to meet them. Courts must consider each parent’s ability to support a child’s meaningful relationship with the other parent. A judge’s decision must try to maintain a child’s supportive relationships with siblings and extended family and the quality of a child’s relationships with other members of each parent’s household.

Routine and predictability are crucial for children, and the law directs a judge to evaluate a child’s level of comfort, familiarity, and stability with each parent’s home. Proof of domestic violence or child abuse will influence a best-interest decision. A legal representative can ensure a court takes note of any circumstances that could potentially endanger a child.

When a Court Must Decide Children’s Best Interests

The best interest must guide a court’s decision regarding a child, such as assigning custody and visitation rights and ordering child support. Even when the parents have created a parenting plan that works for them, a judge will review it to confirm that it meets the best interest standard before incorporating it into a court order.

The best interest standard likewise applies if one or both parents seek to modify an existing order regarding child custody, visitation, or support. If a parent requests a change that will be disruptive to a child, such as moving a significant distance from the other parent, the parent seeking a modification must prove the change serves a child’s best interest and not just their own. Courts will not assume a change that is good for a parent is also suitable for a child.

Drafting Agreements that Support a Child’s Best Interests

Parents have the greatest insight into their children’s needs and what is best for them in most cases. Parents are also in the best position to determine what is workable for their family.

Courts recognize the benefit of allowing parents to agree on custody, visitation, and child support issues and encourage them to do so. However, a court will review any agreements to ensure they meet the children’s best interests and will reject any arrangement that does not do so.

A Connecticut custody attorney could help parents draft agreements that explicitly acknowledge each child’s particular needs and preferences and how the agreement supports their best interest.  Keeping the best interest of the child standard in mind while drafting helps parents focus their agreement on the children’s needs.

Work with an Attorney in Determining the Best Interest of the Child in Connecticut

It is difficult for many parents to concede that what they want for their children is not the same as the children’s best interests. When parents are separating or divorcing, it is even easier for a well-intentioned parent to conflate their goals with their children’s well-being.

Judges are trained to separate the needs of the parent when determining the best interest of the child in Connecticut. A local attorney could help a parent understand the process and make decisions that further their goals and support their children at the same time. Call today to discuss your options.

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