Co-parenting in Connecticut: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

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Custody in Connecticut

When two parents who are unmarried in Connecticut decide to pursue co-parenting, the first step is to establish the custody arrangement. Connecticut state law (CT Gen. Stat. § 46b-56) defines the legal parent who has permanent legal (custodial) and physical (residential) custody of the child as the “parent of the residence”. This means that when a court has to decide where a child will reside, it will rule in favour of the parent of the residence and set a parenting arrangement based on the best interests of the child. Generally, the parent of the residence will have sole legal and physical custody, while the other parent will have shared legal custody, with limited or supervised physical custody.


CT Custody Law for Unmarried Parents

Both of the unmaried parents share equal rights and responsibilities for their children's custody and visitation. For unmarried fathers, paternity must be established through legal means like voluntary acknowledgment or a court order. If a man suspects that he is the father of the child, he can request a DNA test. On the other hand, if a woman wants the man to pay child support, but he denies that he is the father, the State Attorney General's office can request a DNA test on the woman's behalf to establish paternity of the child. After establishing paternity, both parents can petition for a custody arrangement prioritizing the child's best interests, covering legal and physical custody. Joint custody is favored when possible, with varied schedules like alternating weekends or extended summer visits. Unmarried parents espcially unmarried mothers also have the right to seek child support and participate in major decisions about education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.



Child Support in Connecticut

Following a court’s decision of making one parent the parent of the residence, a court or the parents can set a child support order, using the Child Support Guidelines as set by the state of Connecticut. The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines (Connecticut Practice Book Section 31-303) are used to decide how much one parent will pay the other for child support. A child support order takes into consideration both parents’ adjusted gross income, any alimony one parent pays to the other from a prior marriage or relationship, health insurance costs, daycare costs and any other additional expenses incurred while raising the child(ren).


Co-Parenting Expenses in Connecticut

In Connecticut, a court can also decide to set aside funds to pay for certain co-parenting expenses, such as travel costs, entertainment and educational expenses not covered by child support. This is known as a “co-parenting support order”, the purpose of which is to provide additional financial support to parents who are sharing the responsibility of raising children, over and above what is provided through the standard child support order. Co-parenting expenses can be covered as part of a parenting plan or as separate provisions under an order from the court, but in either case the court has to approve any co-parenting support order.


Parental Rights and Decisions in Connecticut

In Connecticut, parental rights are presumed to be equal regarding major decisions in their children’s lives. Generally speaking, each parent will have equal rights to make decisions regarding their child’s religious upbringing, education and medical decisions. This means that both parents will have to agree to the major decisions of their child’s life, such as whether to change schools, whether to vaccinate their child, or what religious instruction the child should receive. That being said, it is possible for one parent to be designated as the “primary decision-maker”, with the other parent having limited rights regarding certain decisions.


Parenting Plans in Connecticut

When two unmarried parents in Connecticut decide to pursue co-parenting, they have the option of creating and signing an agreement, known as a “parenting plan”. A parenting plan is an agreement between the parents detailing their responsibilities and expectations. This can include any private arrangements and agreements the parents come up with, such as a custody and visitation schedule, child support payments, and any provisions regarding co-parenting expenses. Parenting plans are voluntary, meaning the parents can’t be forced to enter into one if they are not willing, however they can still be enforced by the court if they are included in a court order.


Visitation Rights in Connecticut

When parents in Connecticut enter into a parenting plan, they also have the option of establishing visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. Visitation rights are rights given to the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child in order to foster strong parental bonds. Courts in Connecticut prefer to establish visitation rights over refusing to grant any rights, unless visitation would be deemed detrimental to the child. In cases where the parents are not able to agree on a visitation schedule, the court will decide on the frequency and duration of visits depending on what is considered to be best for the child.


Mediation in Connecticut

In Connecticut, mediation is available for unmarried parents who are trying to resolve issues surrounding their children and parental responsibilities that arise during a court proceeding. Mediation is a process that is used to resolve disputes through facilitated negotiations. During mediation, the parties involved can discuss their co-parenting arrangements, such as the parenting plan and visitation schedule, in an effort to come to an agreement, with the help of a mediator. The mediator is a neutral third party who is not permitted to give either party legal advice but will assist in facilitating the negotiations. Mediation is voluntary, meaning the parents can choose to opt out of mediation and have the court decide disputes regarding their custody, visitation and parenting plan.



Co-parenting can be a complicated endeavor, and understanding the various legal requirements can be cumbersome. As such, it is important for any parent considering co-parenting to familiarize themselves with the laws that govern child custody, child support, co-parenting expenses, parental rights, decisions, parenting plans and visitation rights in the state of Connecticut. Doing so can help parents make informed decisions regarding their co-parenting arrangement and ensure a positive outcome for both parents and children.


Fact Check and Resources

To create this post we have fact checked and researched the following sources:




Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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