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Can A 13-year-old Decide Which Parent To Live With In CT?

Imagine being a 13-year-old faced with the difficult decision of choosing which parent to live with. In the state of Connecticut, this question is not as straightforward as one might think. While the perspective and desires of the child are taken into account, the ultimate decision lies with the court. In this article, we will explore the factors that are considered when determining the best living arrangement for a 13-year-old in Connecticut and shed light on the complex nature of this decision-making process.

Legal Framework in Connecticut

Connecticut has established a comprehensive legal framework to ensure the well-being and best interests of children when determining custody and visitation arrangements. The state follows the “best interests of the child” standard, which serves as the guiding principle in all family law matters involving children.

Age of Consent in CT

Before delving into the factors that are considered in determining custody arrangements, it is important to address the issue of the age of consent in Connecticut. While the age of consent for activities such as sexual relations may vary, in the context of custody decisions, the age at which a child can express their preferences is taken into account.

In Connecticut, there is no specific age at which a child is automatically able to decide which parent they want to live with. However, as children mature, their preferences may be given greater weight by the court.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

When making decisions regarding child custody, the paramount consideration is always the best interests of the child. Connecticut courts carefully examine numerous factors related to the child’s well-being, their relationship with each parent, and the overall circumstances surrounding the child’s upbringing.

Factors Considered by the Court

The court considers an array of factors that help determine the best interests of the child. These factors include:

Child’s Preference

While the child’s preference is not the sole determining factor, the court takes into account the child’s wishes, particularly as the child grows older. The court considers the child’s ability to understand the situation and make an informed decision.

Each Parent’s Wishes

The court examines the wishes of each parent regarding custody and visitation arrangements. The willingness of each parent to foster a positive relationship with the child and encourage a healthy co-parenting dynamic is considered.

Physical and Mental Well-being

The physical and mental well-being of the child is of utmost importance to the court. Factors such as the child’s health, safety, and emotional stability are taken into consideration when making custody determinations.

Stability and Continuity

Providing stability and continuity in the child’s life is given significant weight by the court. This includes evaluating the child’s current living situation, keeping siblings together if feasible, and minimizing disruptions to the child’s routine and environment.

Parent-Child Relationship

The court carefully evaluates the quality of the relationship between the child and each parent. Factors such as the degree of involvement, love, and emotional support provided by each parent are considered.

Parental Capabilities

The court assesses each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs. Factors such as parenting skills, willingness to cooperate with the other parent, and capacity to make important decisions in the child’s best interests are taken into account.

Cooperation Between Parents

The court values the ability of parents to cooperate and effectively communicate with each other. A demonstrated willingness to work together in making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing is considered favorable by the court.

Child’s Adjustment to School and Community

The child’s stability within their school and community is an essential factor. The court examines how a proposed custody arrangement may impact the child’s educational progress, friendships, and overall well-being within their established social environment.

Abuse or Neglect

If there are any substantiated claims of abuse or neglect, the court takes these allegations seriously. The safety and protection of the child are prioritized, and measures are taken to ensure the child is not exposed to any harmful situations.

Any Other Relevant Factors

Connecticut courts have the discretion to consider any other relevant factors that may arise in the specific circumstances of each case. This flexibility allows the court to ensure that the best interests of the child are upheld in light of any unique or exceptional circumstances.

Can A 13-year-old Decide Which Parent To Live With In CT?

Parental Agreements

In Connecticut, parents have the option to create their own custody and visitation agreements, tailored to the specific needs of their family. There are two primary types of parental agreements recognized by the court:

Collaborative Parenting Agreement

A collaborative parenting agreement is a comprehensive document created by both parents to establish custody and visitation arrangements. This agreement outlines the roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority of each parent, as well as the details of the child’s living arrangements and visitation schedule.

Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is similar to a collaborative parenting agreement but is typically drafted by one parent and proposed to the court. In situations where parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement, the parent proposing the plan presents it to the court for consideration.

Both collaborative parenting agreements and parenting plans are encouraged by the court, as they prioritize the involvement of both parents in the child’s life and provide a framework for effective co-parenting.

Mediation and Counseling Services

Connecticut employs alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and counseling, to assist parents in reaching mutually satisfactory custody arrangements. These services offer numerous benefits for parents and children alike.

Benefits of Mediation and Counseling

Mediation and counseling provide parents with an opportunity to resolve conflicts and reach agreements outside of court. By working with a neutral third party, parents can engage in open and constructive dialogue, fostering communication and helping to build effective co-parenting skills.

Mediation and counseling also allow parents to maintain control over the decision-making process, rather than leaving the final outcome solely in the hands of the court. This collaborative approach often leads to more durable and personalized custody arrangements that prioritize the best interests of the child.

When Mediation or Counseling is Required

In Connecticut, mediation or counseling may be mandated before proceeding to court. These services are typically required when parents are unable to reach a consensus on custody and visitation matters. By encouraging parents to engage in these conflict resolution techniques, the courts aim to mitigate the adversarial nature of custody disputes and promote the well-being of the child.

Can A 13-year-old Decide Which Parent To Live With In CT?

The Role of the Guardian Ad Litem

In cases where the court believes additional information is necessary to make an informed decision about custody, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed. The GAL acts as the legal representative of the child’s best interests and assists the court in understanding the child’s unique needs and circumstances.

Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem

The court has the authority to appoint a GAL when it deems it appropriate or when either parent requests one. The GAL is typically an attorney or mental health professional with expertise in child development and family dynamics.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Guardian Ad Litem

The GAL conducts an independent investigation and evaluation to gather information about the child’s circumstances. This may involve meeting with the child, parents, and other relevant individuals, such as teachers or healthcare providers. The GAL then provides a report to the court, offering recommendations and insights into what arrangements would be in the child’s best interests.

The court heavily considers the GAL’s findings but ultimately retains the authority to make the final custody determination.

Court Proceedings

If parents are unable to reach a custody agreement through negotiation, mediation, or counseling, the matter may proceed to court. Here is an overview of the typical court proceedings involved in custody cases:

Initial Petition

The custody process typically begins when one parent files a petition with the court seeking custody or visitation rights. The court will then evaluate the circumstances and initiate the necessary proceedings.

Evaluation and Investigation

During this phase, the court may order evaluations or investigations, such as home visits, psychological examinations, or drug testing, to gather additional information regarding the child’s well-being and each parent’s capabilities. This process helps provide a comprehensive understanding of the child’s circumstances.

Hearings and Testimony

Once the court has collected the necessary information, a hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence and testify in support of their desired custody arrangements. The court will carefully consider the arguments and evidence presented by each party.

Final Decision

After considering all relevant factors, the court will make a final determination regarding custody and visitation arrangements. The court’s decision is based on what it believes to be in the best interests of the child, as informed by the evidence presented during the proceedings.

Can A 13-year-old Decide Which Parent To Live With In CT?

Exceptions to the Best Interests Standard

While the best interests of the child standard prevails in Connecticut custody cases, there are a few exceptions where other factors may come into play:

Age and Maturity of the Child

Connecticut courts may give more weight to the preferences of older and more mature children, although the child’s wishes are not considered as an absolute determining factor.

Parental Unfitness or Inability to Care for the Child

If one parent is deemed unfit or unable to adequately care for the child, the court may override the best interests standard and award custody to the other parent. The safety and well-being of the child remain paramount, taking precedence over other factors considered.

In conclusion, Connecticut strives to protect and promote the best interests of children involved in custody disputes. The courts consider numerous factors, ranging from the child’s preferences to parental capabilities and stability. While the child’s age and maturity influence the weight given to their wishes, the court ultimately makes custody determinations based on what it deems to be in the child’s best interests. The availability of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and counseling, further encourages parents to collaborate and create personalized custody arrangements that prioritize the well-being of their children.


Hi, I'm Andrew, and I'm thrilled to be a part of CT Youth, where safety meets compassion. As a leading private agency, I'm passionate about creating safe and nurturing environments for children. I understand the crucial role that supervised visitation plays in protecting the welfare of children in challenging family dynamics. Through this blog, I aim to offer insights, resources, and guidance to help families navigate these complex situations with care and empathy. I'm here to provide answers to commonly asked questions and share information about our local services. Join me on this journey as we prioritize the well-being of children together.