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27 Holmes Avenue, Waterbury, CT  203 756-6100




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690 Flatbush Avenue West Hartford, CT  06110-1308

860 236-9350             800 856-6400  toll free     860 523-9101  fax

27 Holmes Avenue Downtown Waterbury 203 756-6100



Child Custody Cases

    Child custody disputes are among the most difficult legal cases that divorce judges and lawyers face.  Although each parent in a custody battle may be convinced that the other parent is unfit to raise their children, most custody cases are not so clear cut.  Divorce judges usually have to choose between two parents who are each capable of adequately raising children.  To make these difficult decisions, divorce judges often obtain information from sources such as family relations officers, court appointed attorneys for the children, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

    At the Serrano Law Firm, we understand the anxiety and fear faced by clients in child custody fights.  Sometimes the other parent truly is not fit to raise children and our role as lawyers is to help our clients make that fact apparent to the divorce court.

    Most custody cases are much more complex.  We know that a parent can hurt his or her chances of obtaining custody by unreasonably attacking the fitness of the other parent.  Such an approach can backfire because divorce judges generally believe that a child needs the attention and care of both parents.  A parent who insists on attacking the other parent may make a divorce judge feel that he or she does not deserve custody because he or she will not support the other parent's role in raising the children.  We have seen many parents make this mistake, sometimes even with the advice of their lawyers.

    At the Serrano Law Firm,, we recognize that the better, more effective approach is to help our client convince the divorce court that he or she is the parent who will best raise the children.  This approach requires skill, resourcefulness and creativity, and this is what we offer to parents who are facing child custody disputes.

    A divorced or unmarried parent can have either sole custody or joint custody.  A parent with sole custody has the final say about how children should be raised, including decisions regarding education, religious instruction and medical care.  Parents with joint custody share the responsibility for making those decisions, even though the children live with one parent and only visit with the other parent.

    Whenever a divorce court deals with any issue involving children, including custody, visitation, principal place of residence, and education, the main priority for the divorce court is the best interests of the children.

    If parents who are divorcing agree to joint child custody, Connecticut family law states that there shall be a presumption that it is in the best interests of the children for there to be joint custody.  A divorce judge who denies joint child custody to parents who both ask for joint custody has to explain the reasons for denying joint custody.

    If neither parent asks for joint child custody, that is, if both parents ask for sole custody, then the divorce court cannot order joint custody.  The divorce court must award sole custody to one of the parents.

    Although unusual, divorced parents sometimes share joint physical custody of children.  This means that the children spend approximately equal time living with each parent.  Much more common is for the children to live with one parent (the custodial parent) and to visit with the other parent (the non-custodial parent).

    A non-custodial parent does not lose any rights under the law other than the right to have the children reside with him or her.  Inheritance rights are the same between children and non-custodial parents as they are between children and custodial parents.

    Losing custody of children is not the same as having one's parental rights terminated.  If a custodial parent should die or become incapable of caring for the children, then Connecticut family law presumes that the non-custodial parent will take over custody of the children and raise them, even if the children have a step-parent.  Of course, if the non-custodial parent is unfit to raise children, then the divorce court will award custody to someone else, either a relative, step-parent or foster parent.

    When parents can work out visitation between themselves, the visitation order usually will simply call for "reasonable and liberal" visitation.  If parents have difficulty agreeing on visitation, then specific visitation orders will be entered which set forth the dates and times for visitation, how transportation should be arranged, and how holidays should be handled.

    The divorce courts generally like there to be as much visitation as possible between children and the non-custodial parent.  However, when it appears that visitation will cause problems for the children, the divorce court can deny visitation or order that visitation be supervised.


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