As is the case in every state, Connecticut courts have consistently held that in making child custody decisions, the overriding factor is the welfare of the child. That standard is also set forth in the relevant statute that provides that, while the court will consider the wishes, rights and responsibilities of the parents, it must enter an order that is in the child’s best interests.

In this regard, several factors are used by a court when making its determination. Paramount in its consideration is the temperament and developmental needs of the child. It will also consider the capacity of each parent to meet those needs, as well as any preferences that the child may be capable of understanding and expressing. The willingness of each parent to both encourage and facilitate the continuation of a family relationship between the child and the other parent is an important factor in reaching a child custody decision.

The court will also take into account certain instances of negative behavior when determining the type of custody arrangement that would be in the best interests of the child. As an example, if there had been any report of domestic violence instigated by one parent towards the other or towards the child or a sibling, the court will likely consider the effect of such an event on the child. There is a general belief that joint custody is primarily in the best interests of the child if the parents have so agreed, either in a settlement agreement or in court. If the court denies joint custody under such circumstances, it must state its reasons in its decision.

The court is free to make its decision based on one or more of the foregoing factors, and is not obligated to give equal weight to each of them. A family law attorney can explain each of these considerations in more detail to a parent who is contemplating a divorce.

Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries, “Best Interest of the Child Standard in Connecticut“, September 26, 2014