Connecticut Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines

Connecticut Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines

Married Parents

Parties who are married at the time of an infant’s birth have both legal and physical custody of their child.  However, in Connecticut, should you choose to legally separate or proceed with a divorce, you may file a petition for dissolution of marriage and file a parenting plan establishing custody and visitation.


Connecticut law clearly defines the different classes of custody for parents as follows:

Physical Custody means that the parent has the right to “physically” live with the child.

Legal Custody means that the parent has the power to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including educational, medical and religious.

Joint Custody means legal custody of the minor child to both parents with joint decision-making. Physical custody is shared by both parents.

Shared physical custody means each parent exercises physical care and control of the child for periods of time substantially in excess of a normal visitation schedule.

Split custody means a situation in which there is more than one child in common and each parent is the custodial parent of at least one of the children.

Sole Custody means one parent has exclusive physical and legal custody of the children.

Third party or nonparent custody identifies grandparents, as well as people who have no biological relationship with a child, who undertake duties of a parental nature.

Unmarried Parents

Under Connecticut paternity laws, the custodial rights of unmarried parents differ initially from the rights of married parents. If a man is married to the child’s mother before the child’s birth, or he marries her after the birth, Connecticut considers him to be the child’s legal father. If he and the child’s mother never marry, however, state law requires legal action before he becomes the legal father and can request custody or visitation rights. A man who has never been the mother’s husband may establish paternity by signing a voluntary acknowledgment or by completing a paternity action.  An unmarried mother may also ask for a legal determination of paternity through the state courts or the state’s child support agency.

When two unmarried individuals have legal rights as the child’s parents, either of them may request custody rights through an action in the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

Determining Custody in Connecticut

Connecticut statutes, in general, favor joint custody, granting both parents access to a child, and will include a determination regarding where the child will live; and, a determination regarding parental consultation for making major decisions regarding health, education, and religious needs.

If a Connecticut court does not award joint custody to both parents, the reasons for the decision must appear, in writing, in the custody order. The court may order sole custody to one parent with appropriate visitation with the non-custodial parent when it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child, including:

  • the child’s temperament and needs
  • each parent’s ability to understand and meet the needs of the child
  • each parent’s ability to be actively involved in the child’s life
  • each parent’s willingness to encourage the relationship of the child with the other parent
  • the child’s past and current relationship with each parent
  • the stability of each parent’s residence
  • the parents’ wishes for custody, and
  • the child’s wishes for custody If the child is of a sufficient age (see below).

Last, a Connecticut court may order split custody.

Modification of Custody Orders

A parent can seek modification of a custody order at any time, but in Connecticut a court will only change custody if the requesting parent can prove that there has been a “significant change in circumstances” since the last court order such that it would be unjust or inequitable to hold either party to it.

Registration of Out of State Custody Orders

In Connecticut a child custody determination issued by a court of another state may be registered, with or without a simultaneous request for enforcement.  A Connecticut court may modify a child custody determination made by a court of another state if (1) The child resides in CT with a parent; (2) the child has been, or is under a threat of being, abused or mistreated by a person who resides in CT …; and (3) the court determines that it is in the child’s best interest to modify the child custody determination.

Enforcement of Custody Orders

In Connecticut the court can recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state.  A petitioner seeking to enforce a child custody determination must file a verified petition and attach copies of all orders or notice sought to be enforced. Upon the filing of a petition, the court shall issue an order directing the respondent to appear in person with or without the child at a hearing, the time and place of which shall be specified, and may enter any order necessary to ensure the safety of the parties and the child.

Submitted by: Linda O’Marie Paralegal

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Posted in A Childs Best Interests, Child Custody, Child Visitation, Connecticut Guidelines, Divorce, Parenting Plans

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