En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Connecticut

UPDATED January 10, 2017

View All

Please consider getting help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action. To find an organization, please go to the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

General info and definitions

back to topWhat is custody?

Custody is the physical care and supervision of a child (under 19 years of age). Custody or "legal custody" also refers to the parental right to make major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, health care and religious training.*

 * C.G.S.A. § 46b-115a.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat is physical custody?

Physical custody is the term used to describe the person that lives with the child on a day-to-day basis.*

* C.G.S.A. § 46b-115a.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat is joint custody?

Joint custody means an order awarding legal custody of the minor child to both parents, providing for joint decision-making by the parents and providing that physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to make sure the child of gets continued contact with both parents. The court may award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody where the parents have agreed to merely joint legal custody. A judge can assume that joint custody is in the best interest of a minor child if the parents agree.*

 * C.G.S.A. § 46b-56a.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topShould I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to CT Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat are some advantages and disadvantages for getting a custody order?

There are advantages and disadvantages to requesting a custody order.

Possible Advantages of a Custody Order
A custody order can:

  • give you the right to make decisions about education, healthcare, religion and other things for your child;
  • create a clear schedule listing where the child will live and when the child will have visitation with the other parent;
  • create clear instructions for how and when the child will be passed to the other parent and returned to you;
  • address any safety issues you may have with the other parent, including explaining how and when you will discuss the child and how any potential meetings will be handled;
  • prevent either parent from moving out of state with the child; and
  • give you the right to call the police or go back to court to enforce the order if the other parent does not do what the order says and to ask that the other parent be punished (“held in contempt”).
Possible Disadvantages of a Custody Order
  • Filing for a custody order can mean that you are giving the other parent an opportunity to fight for more custody or visitation than you want;
  • Unless there are drastic circumstances, judges usually try to give both parents at least some parenting time with the child and in many states the courts favor giving joint custody;
  • If there is no custody order, then in most circumstances, both parents have equal rights to make decisions about the child and to have the child live with them – a custody order can change that balance for better or for worse;
  • For some parents, a custody order is more complicated and difficult to deal with than an informal agreement with the other parent;
  • If you have a custody order, the judge can prevent you from moving the child far away from the other parent and will be involved with your family for as long as the child is a minor;
  • If you ever want to change the custody and visitation arrangement, you have to go back to court to ask the judge to modify the order; and
  • A custody case is complicated and can be expensive if you don’t qualify for free legal services and have to hire a lawyer.
Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don't want to get the courts involved. They may have an informal agreement that works well for them or may think going to court will provoke the other parent to fight for more time with the child than he or she already has.  Once the courts are involved, the judge will listen to both parents when making decisions.

Many people decide to ask for a custody order because they cannot agree with the other parent regarding decisions about the child or because they fear the other parent will not return the child. If there is no custody order in place, there might be little you can do if the other parent keeps the child away from you (unless it is a father whose paternity has not been established). To get the child back, you would likely have to go to court to start a custody case.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top