A decision illustrates the extent to which a court will consider the relationship between a child’s parents when making determinations related to custody and visitation. This decision will involving court intervention will impact custody and visitation. In this particular case, the parties were married for approximately three years and were the parents of one minor child.  Although they were able to obtain a divorce on an uncontested basis, the parties’ relationship eventually deteriorated, resulting in a ten year period of post judgment litigation related to custody and visitation issues.

Determining Child Custody

After hearing evidence on a series of motions, the trial court found that the parent’s relationship was toxic, that they rarely communicated in a civil manner, and that despite engaging in a variety of co-parenting classes, they failed to achieve any success.  The court further found that the mother complained about the father’s parenting without justification.

The guardian ad litem appointed to the case testified that because of the mutual distrust and hostility between the parents, a shared custody arrangement simply would not be feasible.  Rather, she recommended that the father be the primary custodian, noting that he was more likely to foster a relationship with the mother, that the mother micromanaged the parenting of the child and that the mother was unnecessarily critical of the father.

The Court’s Decision

Ultimately formulating orders that deviated from both parent’s respective proposals, the court explained that under Connecticut law, the trial court’s discretion as to custody and visitation is not limited to adopting the specific custodial arrangement sought by the parties.  Indeed, even where parties are in agreement, a court has an independent duty to inquire into custody arrangements as it is ultimately bound by the best interests of the child.

Although the rights, wishes and desires of the parents are a factor to be taken into account, they must be subordinated to the best interest of the child. Ridgeway v. Ridgeway, 180 Conn. 533 (1980).  As this case illustrates, a court can and often will evaluate the relationship between a child’s parents when considering custody related matters, and when necessary, may intervene in the midst of litigation to protect that child from his or her warring parents.

The matrimonial attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience handling divorce and custody matters, and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield.  To schedule a free initial consultation, please feel free to contact managing partner, Attorney Joseph C. Maya at (203) 221-3100, or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.