Stratford Visitation Lawyer
Going through a divorce can be a stressful time, especially when there are children involved. Both parents typically want to ensure they can spend as much quality time with their children as possible after one household becomes two, but the first steps in creating custody arrangements and parenting plans can be daunting.
A Stratford visitation lawyer with knowledge of the law and the local court system may be able to help by explaining the law in plain, understandable terms and working to create a parenting plan that is likely to be approved by the court. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced legal advocate can save you time, money, and aggravation throughout every step of establishing and formalizing your visitation schedule.
How the Law Applies to Visitation in Stratford
The first step in creating a visitation arrangement is to establish the type and amount of custody each parent has. There are two types of custody available to parents in Stratford. Physical custody determines where the child lives most of the time, whereas legal custody is the right to make important decisions about the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing.
Both physical and legal custody may be awarded solely or jointly. Sole physical custody means that the child will primarily live with one parent for most of the time and the other non-custodial parent will have a parenting plan that specifies scheduled times to spend with the child. Sole physical custody is the typical arrangement, but in some cases, joint physical custody will be arranged so the child spends half of their time with each parent. A Stratford visitation lawyer could answer additional questions an individual may have about sole physical custody and joint custody.
Most of the time, legal custody is awarded jointly to allow both parents to participate in important decisions regarding their child’s welfare. One reason sole legal custody may be awarded is in cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by the non-custodial parent.
Courts in Stratford, Connecticut generally prefer that parents draft an agreement together and present it to the court. The court then reviews the agreement to ensure the child’s needs are adequately addressed. Once approved by the court, the agreement can be incorporated into a divorce decree and order.
If parents do not agree on custody, the court may order an arrangement that primarily addresses the child’s best interests. Some of the factors that may be weighed when making this decision are:
- The needs of the child, as well as each parent’s ability to address those needs
- The child’s wishes, if they are old enough to understand and communicate them
- The existing relationship between the child and each parent
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child
- Any issues of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- If applicable, the mental and physical health of both parents, as well as the cultural background
Courts are required to consider the best interests of a child as the primary criteria when awarding custody and visitation. Parents may be ordered to attend counseling or submit to drug or alcohol screening if the court believes it is necessary in order to keep their child safe during visitation.
Making a Visitation Schedule
Once custody is determined, a visitation schedule—or parenting plan—must be established. The parenting plan should address several key issues, among them:
- Regularly scheduled parenting time with each parent on a weekly or monthly basis, potentially with some weekday overnights and alternate weekends with the non-custodial parent depending on the circumstances
- A holiday and special event schedule that dictates how parents will split parenting time on holidays, birthdays, and other special events
- A vacation schedule that alternates school vacations between the parents
- Rules for dropping off and picking up children for parenting time
If parents cannot agree on a parenting schedule, the court may dictate a schedule on its own. Parenting time schedules may be modified by filing a motion for modification with the court and scheduling a hearing. A parenting time agreement is a binding order. Failure to abide by its terms may be grounds for the other parent to bring a complaint for contempt. If found guilty of contempt, the person who violated the parenting plan could be required to pay the legal fees of the other parent and perhaps face incarceration.
Speak with a Stratford Visitation Attorney Today
Custody and visitation issues can be complex. Parents can be adversarial, and children may be caught in the middle of a bitter fight. Even if parents are cordial and agree on parenting terms, it might be beneficial to consult with an experienced Stratford visitation lawyer to ensure you know your rights and how the law operates. To schedule an initial consultation and get started on your case, call today.