When contemplating divorce, parents are rightly concerned about the welfare of their children. One issue that often confuses divorcing parents is the definition of custody.
In Connecticut, there are two forms of custody: legal custody and physical, or residential custody.
Legal Custody of Children in Divorce
Legal custody refers to the decision-making power for the children. A parent with legal custody makes decisions for the children about their health care, education, residence, religious upbringing and other major issues. These are issues other than the day-to-day decisions about bedtime, nutrition, and other routine decisions of daily life with children.
In the vast majority of Connecticut divorces, parents will be granted joint legal custody. This means that they must consult with each other and reasonably agree as to how their children will be raised. They must make these decisions in consideration of what is in the best interests of the children, despite their own personal preferences.
Physical or Residential Custody of Children in Divorce
Physical custody refers to where the children will reside. In many divorces, one parent will have primary physical custody and the other parent will have “visitation”. The term visitation is used less frequently in recent years. More common is a schedule of “parenting time” for the non-custodial parent. The goal is for the children to feel that they have two homes-one with mom and one with dad.
Today it is common in many divorces to see shared parenting on a relatively equal basis, with neither parent having primary physical custody of the children. When both parents’ work schedules permit, this is a desirable alternative for many families.