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How do parenting plans work in Connecticut?

Understanding how parenting plans work in Connecticut can help parents to better navigate this process.

The decision to divorce and the ensuing arrangements can make for a challenging experience. This may be especially so when there are minor children involved. Sensitive issues, such as child custody and visitation rights, can add to an already stressful situation.

In order to help separating parents make the right decisions for their children, Connecticut state law enables the submission of parenting plans. These plans cover custody, visitation and decision-making, among other child-related issues. If parents are able to jointly produce a parenting plan that the court accepts, it will govern these issues going forward. If they are not able to do so, the court will produce a plan deemed appropriate for the situation.

What should be included?

In order to increase the probability that the court will accept a parenting plan, seeking consistency with Connecticut state law is important. The General Statutes of Connecticut outline what is expected from these plans, upon submission. Sections 46b-56c of the GSC includes the following guidelines:

  • The plan should include a child custody and visitation schedule. This schedule would explain whether the child would be under joint or sole custody. It would also clarify the visitation rights of the parents, including holiday and vacation time.
  • The court will be looking for clarity on how decision-making responsibilities for the child will be allocated. Specific matters that will be considered include the child's educational and health care needs, as well as religious upbringing.
  • Parenting plans should provision for resolving possible future disputes. They should also address possible scenarios in which a parent fails to uphold his or her responsibilities.

The court may also want to see how the plan will accommodate the child's evolving needs as he or she develops.

How will plans be judged?

The ultimate standard for parenting plans is what is in the best interest of the child. Specifically, the court will judge submitted parenting plans against a set of factors consistent with that standard. The GSC describes this set of factors, which focus on the unique characteristics and preferences of the child and the parents.

For example, multiple factors relate to the temperament, developmental needs or cultural background of the child. The informed preferences of the child regarding custody represent a relevant factor. The capacity and willingness of the parents to satisfy the needs of the child will be a significant consideration for the court.

Parents know what is in the best interest of their children better than anyone. For this reason, the ideal process is for parents to collaboratively create a parenting plan, rather than the court. In order to facilitate this process, divorcing parents may wish to consult with a Connecticut family law attorney.

Keywords: divorce, parenting plan,