Connecticut parents going through the custody process often want to know exactly how a court is going to determine custody. The reality is that there is no definite answer to this question. Rather, a judge examines several factors, 16 in total, in each child custody case to determine what custody schedule is in the child’s best interest.
What determines a child’s best interest?
The custody factors a court considers are:
- The child’s temperament and developmental needs.
- The parents’ capacity and disposition to understand and meet the needs of the child.
- Any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the child’s informed preferences.
- The parents’ wishes.
- The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child.
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a continuing parent-child relationship between the child and other parent, including compliance with any court orders.
- Any manipulation or coercive behavior of the parents.
- Each parent’s ability 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 satisfactory and stable environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in the environment.
- The stability of the child’s current or future residences.
- The mental and physical health of all involved individuals.
- The child’s cultural background.
- Any evidence of abuse or neglect of the child or siblings.
The effect of domestic abuse on custody
In situations involving domestic violence, the effect on the child is a factor. Although a parent leaving the child’s home could be deemed a negative factor, the court must consider if the parent left due to domestic violence or a bad environment. Both parents must also complete a parenting course, and whether this course was completed will be considered.
No factor is deemed more important than another. Each factor is given equal weight and analyzed against the specific facts of each case. A custody judge is not required to consider every one of these factors, but they may if they wish. Some factors may not apply to a situation.