When discussing child custody matters, joint custody is a term that creates confusion, and with good reason. It has several meanings as used in Connecticut.
The Connecticut statutes define joint custody as awarding legal custody of a minor child to both parents, providing for joint decision-making by the parents and providing that physical custody be shared by the parents in such a way to assure the child of continuing contact with both parents. Our statutes further state that there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a minor child where the parents are able to communicate with each other.
Joint custody refers to the parents’ ability and right to make important decisions for a minor child related to health, religion, education and general welfare. If joint custody is agreed to by the parents or ordered by the court, the parents must work together to make decisions regarding issues that arise for a child.
A parent with sole custody can make decisions without prior consultation with the other parent.
How much time each parent has with a child was formerly talked about in terms of “visitation” or “access,” and in recent years, a “parenting plan.” Parenting plans created by parents can reflect the unique situation of each family, taking into account the needs of all family members, employment, special occasions, holidays and vacation plans. Parenting plans created by the court will contain what the court decides they should contain.
Connecticut has many resources to help parents resolve parenting issues, including parenting counselors/coordinators, appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem and/or Attorney for the Minor Child, and referral to the Family Relations Division of the Judicial Branch for various services based on specific needs of the family.