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How Does a Judge Decide What Is in the Best Interests of a Child?

If you’re considering a divorce in the state of Connecticut and you have children, you will want to come to the table with a clear understanding of how child custody is determined. In the event that you and your spouse are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, this will be put into the hands of a judge who will make the ultimate decision. When determining the terms of child custody, the judge will take the best interests of the child into consideration. You might have heard your divorce attorney mention this phrase “best interests of the child” when referring to child custody decisions. But what exactly does this mean and how can you advocate for your rights to shared or primary custody of your children?

In Connecticut, judges may consider some or all of certain factors listed by law when deciding what is in the best interests of the child:

  • The temperament of the child.
  • The child’s developmental needs and the ability of the parents to meet those needs.
  • Any informed preferences of the child.
  • The preferences of the parents.
  • The child’s relationship with each parent, as well as siblings or others who may affects the child’s best interests.
  • Whether each parent is willing and able to encourage a meaningful relationship with the other parent when appropriate.
  • Whether each parent is willing and able to comply with court orders.
  • Whether each parent is willing and able to play an active role in the child’s life.
  • Whether either parent has tried to manipulate the child in regard to the custody dispute.
  • The child’s ability to adjust to home or school environments.
  • The desirability of allowing the child to remain in an established and stable home and community environment.
  • The cultural background of the child.
  • Physical and mental health of each parent and the child, though a disability will not automatically disqualify a parent from having custody rights unless it affects the child’s best interests.
  • Whether domestic violence has occurred and the effects on the child.
  • Whether the child or their sibling has been the victim of abuse or neglect.
  • Whether each parent completed parenting education classes.

Let’s take a closer look at how some of these factors may influence custody determinations.

Determining a Place that Supports Emotional Stability

Divorce can be especially hard on the children, which is why the court strives to make a custody decision that will help to maintain stability and reduce any interruptions in the child’s routines. This is a time of change and can be especially confusing and emotionally difficult for children. Attempting to keep the children living in the same house and enrolled in the same school and social activities can help reduce their feelings of turmoil. The court will also take note of the emotional bond that the child has with each parent, and this will frequently factor into the decision.

Considering Your Child’s Health and Safety

The judge will take into account both the mental and physical state of the children and the parents when determining the best placement for them. Needless to say, if there have been any reported incidents of neglect or child abuse by a parent, it is likely that the judge will limit or suspend that parent’s visitation rights. They may also require that a third party be present when the child is visiting with that parent.

Willingness to Co-Parent

It is important to remember that the judge is watching your current actions as well as reviewing your parenting history. If you enter the child custody conversation with a cooperative and supportive attitude, this can help the judge feel confident that you also have the best interests of your children in mind when making decisions. Showing that you are flexible and willing to work to negotiate the best situation for your children – regardless of your personal feelings towards your ex – often bodes well in the judge’s eyes.

Call an Experienced Stamford, CT Divorce Lawyer Today

Going through a divorce can be an extremely stressful experience, especially with minor children. To fully understand your rights and to fight for the right to custody of your children, it helps to seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. The legal team at the Law Offices of Piazza, Simmons & Grant has been serving the Stamford, CT area for many years and has worked extensively with families who are working through child custody issues. Call us today at 203-348-2465 or contact us online to get started with an initial consultation.

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