I’ve outlined many points thus far that are important in divorce. But, this section will deal with what many people consider the most important aspect of divorce – child custody. If you and your spouse have children together, you probably have a million questions running through your mind. It is important to understand that each divorce is different. Your case will be unique and there is no one answer to these questions. However, I can equip you with the options that you will have and the potential outcomes that you face.
The first thing that you should consider when deciding who will have custody of your child is if you and your spouse can work this issue out on your own, or if you need a judge to decide for you. If you and your spouse are fairly amicable and are on the same page concerning custody, there is no need to begin a custody battle. Custody battles can be stressful and expensive. However, if you and your spouse cannot settle custody issues outside of court, presenting your case and having a judge decide questions of custody might be your only option.
If you take your custody battle to court, a judge will control your custody situation. A judge will review the facts of your case and determine who should receive what type of custody. They do this with your children’s best interest in mind.
Guardian Ad Litem
Sometimes, in order to protect your child’s interests, a judge will appoint a guardian ad litem for your child. When a custody battle goes to court, both spouses generally hire attorneys to represent their interests. But the question is: who will represent your child’s interests in an unbiased and professional manner? If both parents believe that they should receive sole or primary custody of the child, how will the court determine what the child’s best interests actually are?
This is where a guardian ad litem comes in. A guardian ad litem can be appointed to a case by a Judge, or one can be requested by an attorney or parent. Fees are typically charged by the hour and paid for by the parents of the child. Whether a guardian ad litem is appointed or not, a judge will determine the most stable and healthy environment for your child based on the facts presented in court.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
A court can order sole custody to one parent, primary custody to either parent, or shared physical custody of the minor children. The two major types of custody are the ones I’ve mentioned above – legal and physical custody. Sometimes people get these types of custody mixed up, so I would like to clarify which is which here. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to be involved in making decisions regarding his or her child. If you have legal custody over your child, you can be involved in making medical, educational, religious and other decisions. However, this type of custody has nothing to do with whom your child lives with.
Just because you have legal custody of your child does not mean that they will automatically reside with you. The type of custody that refers to where your child lives is physical custody. If you receive physical custody, your child will primarily live with you. In some cases, you might be denied physical custody but given legal custody. This will depend on your personal situation.
Sole custody is full legal and physical custody given to one parent in the event that the other parent is deemed unfit or unable to raise a child by the court. In most cases, such a finding is determined by a history of instability in character or an inability to provide for the child’s needs by one spouse proven to the court by the other spouse. Some examples of ways that a parent can lose custody of his or her child are issues with alcohol or drugs, and violent tendencies.
Particularly if a parent has abused their child, whether sexually, emotionally, or physically, that parent can be at serious risk for losing custody of his or her child. Furthermore, if one parent endangers the life or well being of their child through erratic behavior or poor decision-making, custody can be revoked.
Another way that a parent can lose custody is if they abandon or neglect the child. In some cases, sole custody is necessary in order to protect a child from one unstable parent. However, in recent years, fewer and fewer custody battles have ended in sole custody rulings. This is because the court recognizes how important it is for a child to have both of their parents in their life, even if these parents are divorced.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody will allow you and your spouse to make joint legal decisions regarding your children’s religion, health, education, and activities.This means that you will share the responsibility of raising your children, even though you and your spouse will no longer be married. Many people confuse legal custody with physical custody. Joint legal custody does not mean the parents are sharing physical custody. This is an option that has its benefits, but it also has its consequences. Joint custody is an option that you and your spouse should consider if you are planning on getting a divorce. It is the default legal custody arrangement by Connecticut Courts, however could have serious consequences if a parent is not involved in a child’s life or the parents cannot communicate well.
Making Custody Decisions
Deciding where your child lives can be a battle between you and your ex. But, it doesn’t have to be. There are a few different ways that you can come to this decision. Figuring out what is best for your child can be a complex process. Consider some of these factors before making a decision of where your child will live.
Of course you probably want your child to primarily live with you. But, there are other factors at play here. You should sit down with your ex to think about the best situation for your child. Consider factors such as:
- School districts.
- What your child wants.
- Your child’s needs and each parent’s’ ability to meet these needs.
- Your child’s current relationship with each parent.
- Each parent’s stability.
- What each parent wants for custody.
- Other people living at each resident, such as other children, a new spouse or significant other, etc.
In some states, children have a say in which parent they primarily live with after divorce. Every state has different statutes related to this. Some states allow children to decide when they reach a certain age. Other states never allow children to make this decision. In Connecticut, the court will take your child’s preference into consideration. But, this is treated as just one of the factors in the decision. The child’s preference will not make the decision for the court. The court allows children “of significant age” to let the judge know what their preference is. But, they cannot make this decision for themselves in the State of Connecticut.
Temporary Orders on Support and Custody
A typical lawsuit or divorce can take a long time to complete. You and your spouse might spend years trying to decide how to split your assets, whether inside or outside of court. While a lengthy divorce process might be necessary for your particular case, there are some things that will not be able to wait. If you are getting a divorce and you need a quick decision from a judge concerning who gets the kids, the money in your bank accounts, the car, the house, etc. you won’t be able to wait years in order to settle these issues. In cases such as these, you might want to try to obtain a temporary order from a judge.
When couples decide to separate, they will oftentimes go before a judge in a short hearing to resolve important issues temporarily. While these hearings are generally informal and brief, you still need to be prepared for them. You should think about what you are entitled to and you should be aware of what you will ask the judge for. In most cases, you will only have a few minutes to discuss your desires with a judge, so make sure that you can get to the point quickly and present a concise case.
Remember, the purpose of temporary orders is to keep the family as close to status quo as possible. If you request temporary orders in a divorce case, your request will be put on the fast track and a hearing will be scheduled quickly. Usually, a hearing will be scheduled within 2 weeks. Spouses can ask a court for temporary orders concerning many things. Temporary orders are generally valid until another hearing is held by the court or until both spouses come to a more permanent agreement on their own.