Custody is the most significant issue in Connecticut family courts. As a family lawyer practicing more than 30 years, Karen Reynolds has gained experience in all aspects of Custody. As an attorney for parents, she advises clients on how to reach successful Custody agreements. She also serves as a Court appointed lawyer representing minor children, both as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and as an Attorney for the Minor Child (AMC). Her experience as an attorney, and her training in the representation of children and mediation, enable her to assist parents and families achieve results tailored to their own individual needs.
When the parties have minor children, custody is an issue in Divorce cases and dissolution of Civil Unions actions. Parents must address legal and physical custody, child support, visitation and access plans, health insurance and work related day care and even college education expenses as additional issues in their divorce actions.
Not all parents are married. The State of Connecticut has enacted laws giving those unmarried parents the opportunity to file Custody actions providing them a forum to establish paternity, work out legal and physical custody of their minor children and enter orders establishing Visitation and Parenting Access Plans, as well as child support, health insurance and college education.
Minor children are the highest priority in the Connecticut State Family courts and the determining standard is the “best interests of the child”. By law, the State of Connecticut presumes that Joint Legal Custody is in a Minor Child’s best interests. Joint legal custody means that parents share joint decision making regarding the most important issues in a child's life such as education, religion, and non-emergency health issues. This is the optimum scenario for children, and the Courts will start with the presumption that both parents are fit and willing to care for their children. This is a very hard presumption to overcome. For example, some parents believe that the best interests of the child are better served by a parent who earns more money or who has a bigger home. But, this is not the standard the court uses in determining custody of children.
Clients sometimes confuse Joint Legal Custody with terms like Joint Physical Custody or Shared Custody. They are not the same. Often, there is an award of Joint legal custody where one parent has primary residential custody and the other parent has rights of access that are spelled out in the Parenting Access Agreement. Joint physical or shared custody is where the child spends time with both parents and neither one of them primarily. For a joint or shared physical custody arrangement to be successful, it is imperative the parents get along. Children will pay the price if parents do not make an effort regardless of whether the custody is shared.
Visitation and custody go hand in hand. Another term for visitation is parenting access. It is always best for parents to develop their own parenting access plan. A visitation or access plan that is tailor-made to the needs of the parents and the children of those parents will always work best for that family unit. With her experience and training Attorney Reynolds can help you negotiate that parenting plan in a way that works in the best interests of your minor children as well as meeting the needs of both parents. If negotiations fail, she has the experience and trial skills to litigate for those rights in court, if necessary.
Many parents believe that if they have a joint or shared physical custody arrangement, it will lower their child support obligation. Sometimes a parent is afraid to enter into a shared physical custody arrangement, because they fear they will not receive enough child support. Determinations regarding child support in a shared physical custody arrangement are made on a case by case basis. If the court feels that a parent is seeking a determination of shared joint physical custody for the purposes of reducing a child support obligation, this will not be viewed in a positive manner.
It is very rare to have a case where only one parent is a good parent and sometimes, rarely, the court will enter an award of Sole Custody. This is highly unusual, and it happens in extreme circumstances where one parent is either not available or has committed some sort of abuse in the past. The types of abuse that are relevant would include neglect, drug abuse, alcohol dependence, or other serious problems where it might be necessary to fight for sole physical and legal custody.
Adults (parents) divorce and separate from one another, but they do not divorce or separate from their children. And children need both parents even more after a divorce or separation. So parents must find a way to reach an agreement regarding parenting issues that will allow them to co parent in the way that is most successful for their children. The issue of custody has the potential to complicate everything. It can impact the details of the financial settlement and the property settlement in a divorce. It is significant to the negotiation or determination of alimony and child support. The emotions that are incidental to custody issues only serve to make the decision making process during the divorce or separation more difficult. Putting your children’s needs first may be hard, but it is necessary.
Whether you need assistance in negotiation or litigation, you can rely on the Law Offices of Karen Reynolds, LLC. Her 30 years of experience in custody and minor children cases enable her to guide you in making the right decisions in your case. Make an appointment for your free consultation today.