Parents often have difficulty figuring out custody arrangements when they decide to live separately. Custody is a profoundly emotional topic that parents can find triggering, making productive negotiations challenging or impossible. However, even parents who do not communicate well are likely to develop a more realistic and workable custody arrangement than a judge who knows little about their family. For this reason, attorneys and the courts encourage parents to work out a custody agreement rather than leave it to a judge to decide.

Parents who need help agreeing on a plan might work with a mediator. Sometimes the parents’ family attorneys can arrive at an acceptable plan. A Milford child custody lawyer can offer guidance and legal insight from years of experience to help a couple reach a custody agreement.

Types of Custody

In the past, mothers usually got physical custody of their children unless they were proven unfit. The law has progressed since then, and now both parents have equal rights to seek to spend considerable time with their children. The one exception is unmarried fathers who did not legally acknowledge paternity. A lawyer in Milford representing an unmarried father seeking child custody rights will advise them on how to establish their legal parental rights over a child.

Legal custody refers to the right to make life decisions for the child, such as their religion, education, and healthcare. Parenting time refers to physical custody of the child, including where the child lives. Courts favor joint legal custody and shared parenting time arrangements unless inappropriate for the child.

If a parent poses a risk to a child or co-parent, courts sometimes restrict that parent’s access. However, even if a court does not allow a parent to have the children overnight, the parent will almost always have visitation rights. In a case entailing adequate proof that one parent is unsafe, the other parent can request the court order supervised visitation.

Developing a Parenting Plan

Couples with children must create a parenting plan describing how they will co-parent their children while living separately. Connecticut offers a template parents can use, or they can build their detailed plan.

Parenting plans must set forth where the children will live most of the time and when they will be with the non-residential parent. If the parents plan to split time evenly, the plan should include an agreement about who handles transportation to school and activities on which days.

The parenting plan also must describe which parent is responsible for which decisions. If they decide to share decision-making responsibility, the plan must detail how they will resolve disagreements. Once the parenting plan is complete, a it must be submitted to the court for approval. The court will incorporate the plan into a divorce decree or final custody order if the judge believes the agreement supports the children’s best interests.

Determining What Serves the Children’s Best Interests

Judges must consider the child’s best interests when deciding custody or child support. What is best for the children outweighs the parents’ best interests in these cases.

Judges may consider any factors that seem relevant when deciding a particular issue regarding children. Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56(c) lists 16 factors a court could consider, including the:

  • Children’s ages and temperaments
  • Parents’ ages and health status
  • Extent of each parent’s experience caring for the child
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to support the co-parent’s relationship with the child
  • Child’s unique physical, emotional, or educational needs, and each parent’s understanding of and ability to meet them
  • Stability of each parent’s home
  • Quality of the relationships the child has with siblings, stepsiblings, extended family, and other persons who spend time in each parent’s home
  • History of child abuse, child neglect, or domestic violence

Judges consider a child’s preference, but it is just one factor the court weighs among many and is not determinative. Parents sometimes have trouble distinguishing their personal opinions about what is best for their children from the legal definition of their child’s best interest. A lawyer in Milford can explain the difference and help a parent persuade a court that their custody goals support the child’s interests.

Turn to a Milford Child Custody Attorney for Guidance

Developing a workable plan to co-parent would be challenging in the best of times. It is common that many parents have trouble working out child custody issues during a divorce. A Milford child custody lawyer can help a parent understand what their plan must include and what the court will look for during judicial review. Call today to work with a seasoned legal team on your custody agreement.

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