Divorce is complicated but seeking a custody agreement or order that reflects the children’s best interest is a task that seems almost insurmountable. There are ways to deal with child custody challenges in Connecticut and help your children get through this difficult time.

Parenting agreement

Parents undergoing divorce may enter a written custody agreement, known as a parenting plan, that governs how they will share time and decision-making responsibilities for their children. These can set forth clear expectations and, in many case, reduce tension.

Spouses and their attorneys may be able to negotiate and prepare these orders. A child custody mediator can also help spouses prepare these agreements.

Different custody  

Legal custody is the parent’s ability to make major decisions about the children’s well-being such as medical care, school selection and religion.

Physical custody gives the parent the right to live with their child and govern their day-to-day care. That parent is the custodial parent with full physical custody or sole physical custody. The other parent is the non-custodial parent who may be awarded visitation rights. Parents may also share physical custody where the children alternate living at their parents’ homes.

The judge has several custody options. Under sole custody, one parent has the legal authority to act on the child’s behalf. With physical custody, the child usually spends all or most of their time with the sole custody parent.

Joint custody gives both parents shared joint legal and physical custody. This can be granted by the judge or in a parenting agreement.

Split custody gives equal custody to both parents or one parent has much more time with the children. This often exists where one parent is the custodial parent during the school year and the other parent has custody in the summer.

Under third-person custody, a court awards custody to grandparents or another third-party seeking custody. Usually, this individual became the primary caregiver when the parents were unable to care for them because of circumstances such as a parent’s death.

Following a hearing, judges will decide custody arrangements when the parents cannot reach an agreement. First, the judge will consider the best interests of the child. They will also consider the community and schools where the child has ties, the parent’s financial situation and their ability to provide a home, the relationship the child has with each parent, any abuse history and each parent’s physical and mental health.

Visitation rights        

A parent without physical custody rights may receive visitation rights. Visitation is the time the parent may spend with the parent. Parents usually make this schedule, but a judge may set it if the parents cannot reach an agreement.

Visitations may be unsupervised where a parent may visit their children without the other parent being present. Supervised visits, where the parent may be a threat to the children, take place with another person who is monitoring the visit.

Be a good parent 

The parents should always put the child’s best interest first. Parents must also appear on time for court hearings, scheduled visits, events, and school or daycare drop offs and pickups. Do not make realistic promises to the children and parents should keep the promises they made.

During divorce and afterwards, a parent should never say bad things about the other parent in front of their children. Children can never feel they are in the middle of their parents’ dispute. They should also watch for signs that they are having a difficult time with their parent’s divorce and whether they may need counseling.

Parents should also be honest and forthcoming with the new family relationship. They need to have an honest conversation and the children should have the opportunity to express their fears, anxiety and frustration.

An attorney can help negotiate or seek an order that protects the children’s best interests. They can also assure that enforcement or modification is sought if necessary.