Know the Laws: Connecticut
UPDATED December 7, 2015
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If there is a disagreement between a parent and a nonparent about custody, a judge can assume that it is in the best interst of the child to be with the parent. This is true unless it can be shown that being with the parent would be harmful to the child.
Where the parents are no longer living or unfit, the judge can award custody to another person or to an agency such as the Department of Human Resources, depending on what the judge believes to be in the best interest of the child. If one parent is dead, is unable or refuses to take custody, or has abandoned the child, the other parent is usually entitled to custody of the child.*
* C.G.S.A. § 46b-56b.
Possibly. Anyone who is filing for custody of a minor child can ask the court to issue an emergency ex parte order of custody when s/he believes there is an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child.* An order that is issued ex parte means that it is issued without prior notice to the other parent, based only on your affidavit/testimony. If the judge issues an emergency ex parte order, the judge will schedule a hearing within 14 days** and the respondent but be served at least 5 days before that hearing.*** At the hearing, the other parent can object to the ex parte order continuing and it will be up to the judge to decide whether or not to continue the order.
If the judge decides not to issue an ex parte order immediately, the judge must still schedule a hearing on the matter although it may not necessarily be within 14 days.*** If at any time before or after the hearing, the judge believes that an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child exists, the judge has the power to issue an emergency ex parte order for the protection of the child (and the judge can inform the Department of Children and Families of any relevant information in your affidavit for their possible investigation). The emergency order can provide temporary child custody or visitation rights and can order the respondent-parent to not: (1) remove the child from the state; (2) interfere with the applicant's custody of the child; (3) interfere with the child's educational program; or (4) take any other specific action that is in the best interests of the child.**
* C.G.S.A § 46b-56f(a)
** C.G.S.A § 46b-56f(c)
*** C.G.S.A § 46b-56f(d)
A judge will look at what is in the best interest of the child when s/he is deciding who will receive custody. The judge may consider one or more of the following factors, among others:
* C.G.S.A. § 46b-56(c)
Possibly. The judge will consider various factors when making an order of custody and visitation. One factor a judge can consider is if domestic violence has occurred between the parents, between a parent and someone else, or between a parent and the child -- the judge can consider the effect that the actions of the abuser have had on the child.* However, this is only one of many factors considered and does not necessarily mean that an abuser will not get some form of custody or visitation.
* C.G.S. § 46b-56(c)(14)
Possibly. Anyone can file for visitation if s/he can allege in the petition (and later prove at a hearing) that:
You do not need a lawyer to file for custody. However, it may be difficult for you represent yourself in court without the help of a lawyer. Also, if the other parent has a lawyer, it will be particularly helpful if you have a lawyer as well. To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit our CT Finding a Lawyer page.
Custody jurisdiction is state law. However, Connecticut, like most states, has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which we explain here.
Under the UCCJEA, you can only file for custody in the "home state" of the child. (There are exceptions to the "home state" rule -- see below.)
The "home state" is the state where the child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months. If your child is less than six months old, the "home state" is the state where the child has lived from birth. (Temporary absence from the state does not change anything.)
If you and your child recently moved to a new state, you cannot file for custody in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months. Until then, the other parent can start a custody action in the state that your children most recently lived in for at least six months.
There are exceptions to the home state rule. In some cases, you can file for custody in a state where the children and at least one parent have "significant connections." Usually, however, you can only do this if there is no home state or if the home state has agreed to let another state have jurisdiction. This can be complicated, and if you think this applies to your situation, please talk to a lawyer in both states about this.
You can also file for temporary emergency custody in a state other than the home state if:
1. the child is present in that state, and
2. the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.*
* C.G.S.A. § 46b-115k.
It depends on the particulars of your situation. To find out what the process will be like for you, please consult a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit the CT Finding a Lawyer page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
Generally, if the parents are married, one or both of the parents usually files for custody as part of a divorce action. If the parents are already divorced, the parent who does not have custody can file a petition for a change in custody in the county where the divorce was issued. If the parents were never married or live separately, either parent can file for custody in the county in which the child has been living for at least six months.*
* C.G.S.A. § 46b-61