Connecticut Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Understanding the terminology used by the courts is important so that you may create a parenting plan that coincides with the verbiage of the court.
Legal custody pertains to the responsibility and the right to make decisions for the child.
Physical custody pertains to the actual care and residence of the child.
Joint custody means the parents will share both legal custody and physical custody.
When parents share joint custody, they should do so in a manner that assures the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which does not necessarily mean the parents must divide their time with the child equally.
The court may award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody (GSC 46b-56a-a). If only one parent has physical custody, (sole physical custody), the other parent may have visitation rights to the child.
When creating a parenting plan in the State of Connecticut, you will need to decide which type of custody each of you will have and create the plan accordingly.
It is presumed by the State of Connecticut that sharing joint custody is in the best interest of the child, especially if the parent's agree upon it, as long as there are no extenuating circumstances that would warrant a different ruling (GSC 46b-56a-b).
If only one parent seeks to obtain joint custody, the court may order both parents to attend (and pay for) conciliation (GSC 46b-56a-c).
The court may also agree to award joint legal custody but not joint physical custody if the parents agree upon it.
Mediation services are available to address and attempt to resolve custody, visitation and other issues when you cannot reach an agreement on your own (GSC 46b-53a-a).
It is always better for you to come to an agreement on your own, as there are circumstances in your child's life that you have intimate knowledge of, while the court does not.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will award custody and visitation as the court deems appropriate, which may or may not be what is actually in your child's best interests.
In order to have your parenting plan or custody agreement accepted by the court, it should be written well and include at least the following (GSC 46b-56a-d):
- Provisions for allocation decision making responsibilities to one or both parents pertaining to the child's educational needs, medical needs, and religious upbringing
- A custody and visitation schedule that includes holiday and vacation time
- A plan for any possible dispute resolution in the future, should it be needed
- Provisions for how to handle any future situation in which a parent may fail to honor the obligations of the plan and how that will be resolved
- Provisions for how to accommodate the child's changing needs as he matures and grows
- Provisions for shielding the child from any possible parental conflict, and the cooperation and willingness of the parents to compromise when working to uphold the best interests of the child
The court bases all custody decisions on what is best for the child. Therefore, you must make an agreement that addresses the needs and welfare of your child.
In determining what is best for the child, the court considers the following factors (found in 46b-56c):
- The temperament and developmental needs of the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child.
- Any relevant information obtained from the child and the child's informed preferences.
- The wishes of the parents concerning the custody of the child.
- The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings, and any other person who affects the well-being of the child.
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent.
- Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute.
- The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the child's life.
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and community environments.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining the environment.
- The stability of the child's existing or proposed residences.
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved.
- The child's cultural background.
- If there has been any domestic violence, abuse of the child, abuse of the child's siblings, child neglect, etc.
- Whether the parents have satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program. (Section 46b-69b gives authority to the Judicial Department to set up a parenting education program. This is a course that is designed to educate parents on the impact that restructuring the family has on children. The court orders most parents to attend this class, but you can be excused with permission from the court.)
All of these factors will affect your custody agreement and you should think about them in order to make the best decisions for your child.
If you take all of these into account when you make your agreement, you will be able to fully explain to the court the specifics of how your agreement is the best for your child. Since you will be using the language that the court uses, you will have a better chance of helping the court understand the benefits of your agreement.
The court will review the submitted parenting plan, consider the agreement, and decide whether or not to make it a court order.
If the agreement is found to be fair and equitable to both parties and the child, and it is written in accordance to the best interests of the child, the court shall rule it an order.
Otherwise, the court shall determine which parts of your parenting plan need revising, make changes to it according to the circumstances and factors it deems relevant, and then make it an order (GSC 46b-66).
It is important to know that although the court recognizes the importance of natural parents in a child's life and prefers that children remain with their parents in most cases, the court has the power to grant the right of visitation to any person, if they request it (GSC 46b-59).
The court will weigh many factors and rule in accordance with the child's best interests, the child's wishes (if age appropriate), and will consider all circumstances and evidence before making a ruling on a visitation application.
Grandparents, other relatives, and even non-family members may request visitation with the child. The granting of child visitation does not entitle that person to any custodial or parental rights to the child, and it does not negate or take away any of the rights of the custodial rights from the parent(s).
It is the presumption of the court that it is in the best interest of a child to be in the custody of a parent over a non-parent, and any non-parent seeking custody shall have to prove that their absence in the child's life would be detrimental to the well-being and best interests of the child (GSC 46b-56b).
The top twenty cities in Connecticut (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, Norwalk, Danbury, New Britain, Bristol, West Hartford, Meriden, Milford, West Haven, Stratford, East Hartford, Middletown, Shelton, Norwich, Torrington, Trumbull.