Your challenge as a divorcing parent.
It’s to create a parenting plan that is best for your family in light of the individual needs and resources of all family members.
If you choose to divorce through mediation or collaboration, you will have the opportunity to work with legal, financial, or mental health specialists to help you.
What you will need to decide when you divorce.
First, who will make major decisions for your children – decisions affecting their mental and physical health, religious upbringing, and education. Sometimes, you will also need to decide how to make these major decisions.
Second, how will you and your former spouse manage day to day responsibility for your children.
Third, how will your children’s financial needs be met.
The legal terminology.
“Legal custody” relates to who will make major decisions for and on behalf of children. Most parents choose “joint legal custody” meaning they will make major decisions for the children together. “Sole legal custody” occurs when only one person has the right to make major decisions.
“Parenting plan, parental responsibility plan, access schedule, parenting time” all describe the way divorcing parents handle parenting rights and responsibilities – in other words the day to day child management.
“Physical custody” or “primary residential custody” are terms used increasingly less often and designate which parent the children will live with after the divorce.
“Visitation” is a generally obsolete term describing the rights of access a parent has to his children when the other parent has physical custody.
“Shared custody” exists when the children spend substantial time in the care of each parent, although not necessarily exactly equal time. Parents with shared custody share responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care.
“Split custody” exists when one child lives with one parent and another child lives with the other parent.
“Parenting Education Program”. With some exceptions, divorcing parents must complete a six-hour parenting education class offered by various organizations throughout the state. Completing the class, usually before the divorce is final, is typically mandatory, even where parents have a positive and successful co-parenting relationship.
How you will make these important parenting decisions.
Non-adversarial divorce. If you choose to divorce through mediation or collaboration, you will have the opportunity to work with legal, financial, and mental health specialists to help you. The professionals will give you the right amount of education, guidance, and support – the amount you need to remain in charge of your children’s lives after the divorce.
Adversarial divorce. If you choose adversarial divorce, the court system will take on a parental decision making role through one or more of these mechanisms:
“Custody study”. An intrusive and inherently judgmental examination of the divorcing couple, their children and their lives. The study may be conducted by a family relations counselor or a private evaluator, typically a psychologist or psychiatrist. The custody evaluator makes a recommendation to a judge at trial about what parenting orders, in the evaluator’s opinion, are in the children’s best interests.
“Regional Family Trial Docket”, is a special statewide custody in Middletown to which most of Connecticut’s high conflict custody disputes are handled and tried.
“Guardian Ad Litem”, an attorney or other professional appointed by a court so that the children’s best interests are known to the trial judge when the parents can’t agree.
“Attorney for the Minor Child”, an attorney appointed by a court to represent the child.
Attorney Cappalli’s specific experience and value.
I’ve participated in creating parenting plans for hundreds of families by serving as Guardian Ad Litem, Attorney for the Minor Child, Mediator, Collaborative Attorney, Special Master and traditional divorce lawyer.
My legal training in the area of child custody and parenting includes completing The State of Connecticut Regional Family Trial Docket Child Development program in 1995 and the 2010 State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Guardian Ad Litem/Attorney for the Minor Child Comprehensive Basic Training.
Sometimes the input and expertise of a mental health professional, rather than a lawyer, is what a family needs to guide and support them through a divorce. I’m fortunate to work closely with some of the best of these divorce and parenting specialists.
It’s your challenge.
Confronting this challenge can bring out the best or the worst in each parent. You can’t control your spouse’s behavior but you can make sure you are at your best. And doesn’t your child deserve this from you.