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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody in Divorce

January 24, 2024

Child custody is often the top concern of parents getting a divorce. Many parents fear losing custody, visitation, and/or control over decisions involving their children. While every child custody case is different, the same basic rules apply. If you are considering divorce, here are answers to some of our clients’ most common questions.

What Is Sole Legal Custody?

A parent with sole legal custody has the legal right to make major decisions concerning their child without the other parent’s consent. Typically, major decisions involve the child’s health, education, religion, and extracurricular activities.

In Connecticut, the presumption is that joint legal custody is in the child’s best interests. As a result, in most situations, both parents are granted equal rights to make important decisions. A parent will only be given sole legal custody if there is significant evidence that it is in their child’s best interests to do so. 

What Is Physical Custody?

Physical custody looks at who the child is living with at a specific point in time. For example, a parent with parenting time during spring break has physical custody during that period.

Importantly, legal and physical custody are separate matters that the Court will rule on in the case. Accordingly, you may be given sole legal custody but have physical custody only 50 percent of the time. 

What Rights Does a Parent Without Sole Legal Custody Have?

While parents without legal custody cannot make major decisions for their child, they can challenge the other parent’s decision. The objecting parent can either file a motion with the Court to overturn a particular decision or file a motion to modify the underlying order that gave that other parent sole legal custody.

When Can You Deny Visitation to the Non-Custodial Parent?

Generally, parents cannot violate a court order. Therefore, a parent cannot unilaterally deny visitation. However, if one parent is putting the child in imminent physical or psychological harm, the other party can deny visitation and then simultaneously file an emergency ex-parte motion with the Court and then abide by the emergency order.

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem is an individual appointed by the Court or agreed to by the parties to represent the child’s best interests in a custody dispute. Usually, the Guardian ad Litem is an attorney or mental health professional. The duties of the Guardian ad Litem may vary from case to case. Those duties may include conducting interviews and investigations, making recommendations to the Court, and facilitating settlement between the parties. 

Who Pays For A Guardian Ad Litem?

If a Guardian ad Litem is appointed, the parents are responsible for payment of any fees. The Court will usually allocate the cost between the parties based on the parents’ respective financial circumstances.

If you are a parent considering divorce, it is critical to hire an experienced lawyer. Contact us to learn how we can help you with your divorce.

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