CHAPTER 815j
DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE, LEGAL SEPARATION
AND ANNULMENT

Table of Contents

Sec. 46b-54. (Formerly Sec. 46-43). Counsel for minor children. Duties.
Sec. 46b-56. (Formerly Sec. 46-42). Orders re custody, care, education, visitation and support of children. Best interests of the child. Access to records of minor child by noncustodial parent. Orders re therapy, counseling and drug or alcohol screening.
Sec. 46b-56a. Joint custody. Definition. Presumption. Conciliation. Parental responsibility plan. Modification of orders.
Sec. 46b-56c. Educational support orders.
Sec. 46b-59. Court may grant right of visitation to any person.
Sec. 46b-66. (Formerly Sec. 46-49). Review of agreements; incorporation into decree. Arbitration.
Sec. 46b-81. (Formerly Sec. 46-51). Assignment of property and transfer of title.
Sec. 46b-82. (Formerly Sec. 46-52). Alimony.
Sec. 46b-83. (Formerly Sec. 46-50). Alimony, support and use of family home or other residential dwelling unit awarded pendente lite. Voluntary leaving of family home by one parent.
Sec. 46b-84. (Formerly Sec. 46-57). Parents' obligation for maintenance of minor child. Order for health insurance coverage.
Sec. 46b-86. (Formerly Sec. 46-54). Modification of alimony or support orders and judgments.

PART I
GENERAL PROVISIONS

      Sec. 46b-54. (Formerly Sec. 46-43). Counsel for minor children. Duties.

      Attorneys appointed by court pursuant to section are entitled to absolute, quasi-judicial immunity for actions taken during, or activities necessary to, performance of functions that are integral to the judicial process, and defendant attorney entitled to absolute immunity because complaint not grounded on any conduct by defendant in which she acted outside usual role of an attorney for minor children. 274 C. 533.

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      Sec. 46b-56. (Formerly Sec. 46-42). Orders re custody, care, education, visitation and support of children. Best interests of the child. Access to records of minor child by noncustodial parent. Orders re therapy, counseling and drug or alcohol screening. (a) In any controversy before the Superior Court as to the custody or care of minor children, and at any time after the return day of any complaint under section 46b-45, the court may make or modify any proper order regarding the custody, care, education, visitation and support of the children if it has jurisdiction under the provisions of chapter 815p. Subject to the provisions of section 46b-56a, the court may assign parental responsibility for raising the child to the parents jointly, or may award custody to either parent or to a third party, according to its best judgment upon the facts of the case and subject to such conditions and limitations as it deems equitable. The court may also make any order granting the right of visitation of any child to a third party to the action, including, but not limited to, grandparents.

      (b) In making or modifying any order as provided in subsection (a) of this section, the rights and responsibilities of both parents shall be considered and the court shall enter orders accordingly that serve the best interests of the child and provide the child with the active and consistent involvement of both parents commensurate with their abilities and interests. Such orders may include, but shall not be limited to: (1) Approval of a parental responsibility plan agreed to by the parents pursuant to section 46b-56a; (2) the award of joint parental responsibility of a minor child to both parents, which shall include (A) provisions for residential arrangements with each parent in accordance with the needs of the child and the parents, and (B) provisions for consultation between the parents and for the making of major decisions regarding the child's health, education and religious upbringing; (3) the award of sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent where sole custody is in the best interests of the child; or (4) any other custody arrangements as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.

      (c) In making or modifying any order as provided in subsections (a) and (b) of this section, the court shall consider the best interests of the child, and in doing so may consider, but shall not be limited to, one or more of the following factors: (1) The temperament and developmental needs of the child; (2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child; (3) any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child; (4) the wishes of the child's parents as to custody; (5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child; (6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders; (7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute; (8) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child; (9) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments; (10) the length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child's family home pendente lite in order to alleviate stress in the household; (11) the stability of the child's existing or proposed residences, or both; (12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child; (13) the child's cultural background; (14) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child; (15) whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected, as defined respectively in section 46b-120; and (16) whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program established pursuant to section 46b-69b. The court is not required to assign any weight to any of the factors that it considers.

      (d) Upon the issuance of any order assigning custody of the child to the Commissioner of Children and Families, or not later than sixty days after the issuance of such order, the court shall make a determination whether the Department of Children and Families made reasonable efforts to keep the child with his or her parents prior to the issuance of such order and, if such efforts were not made, whether such reasonable efforts were not possible, taking into consideration the best interests of the child, including the child's health and safety.

      (e) In determining whether a child is in need of support and, if in need, the respective abilities of the parents to provide support, the court shall take into consideration all the factors enumerated in section 46b-84.

      (f) When the court is not sitting, any judge of the court may make any order in the cause which the court might make under this section, including orders of injunction, prior to any action in the cause by the court.

      (g) A parent not granted custody of a minor child shall not be denied the right of access to the academic, medical, hospital or other health records of such minor child, unless otherwise ordered by the court for good cause shown.

      (h) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of this section, when a motion for modification of custody or visitation is pending before the court or has been decided by the court and the investigation ordered by the court pursuant to section 46b-6 recommends psychiatric or psychological therapy for a child, and such therapy would, in the court's opinion, be in the best interests of the child and aid the child's response to a modification, the court may order such therapy and reserve judgment on the motion for modification.

      (i) As part of a decision concerning custody or visitation, the court may order either parent or both of the parents and any child of such parents to participate in counseling and drug or alcohol screening, provided such participation is in the best interests of the child.

      (P.A. 73-373, S. 15; P.A. 74-169, S. 8, 18; P.A. 75-530, S. 12, 35; P.A. 77-488, S. 2; P.A. 78-230, S. 27, 54; 78-318, S. 28; P.A. 80-29; P.A. 81-402, S. 1; P.A. 84-42; P.A. 93-319, S. 3, 4; P.A. 99-137; P.A. 01-186, S. 12; May 9 Sp. Sess. P.A. 02-7, S. 35; P.A. 03-19, S. 105; P.A. 05-258, S. 3.)

      History: P.A. 74-169 made minor changes in wording; P.A. 75-530 replaced reference to filing date of complaint with reference to return day of complaint; P.A. 77-488 added provision authorizing court to make orders re visitation rights for third parties such as grandparents; P.A. 78-230 divided section into Subsecs. and restated provisions; P.A. 78-318 qualified court's power to make orders re care, custody and visitation by adding "if it has jurisdiction under the provisions of Ch. 815o"; Sec. 46-42 transferred to Sec. 46b-56 in 1979 and references to other sections within section revised as necessary to reflect their transfer; P.A. 80-29 authorized assignment of joint custody in Subsec. (a); P.A. 81-402 amended Subsec. (a) to provide that the court is subject to the provisions of Sec. 46b-56a in assigning custody and changed the order of possible custody assignments so that "to the parents jointly" is listed first, and amended Subsec. (b) to provide that the court may consider the causes for the dissolution or legal separation if the causes are relevant in a determination of the best interests of the child; P.A. 84-42 added Subsec. (e) re access of noncustodial parent to academic, medical, hospital or other health records of minor children; P.A. 93-319 added a provision in Subsec. (b) requiring the court to consider whether a party has completed a parenting education program when making or modifying a custody or visitation order, effective January 1, 1994, and applicable to actions pending on, or filed on or after, that date; P.A. 99-137 added Subsec. (f) re order of psychiatric or psychological therapy for a child if it would be in the best interests of the child and would aid the child's response to a modification of custody or visitation; P.A. 01-186 added Subsec. (g) re court-ordered participation in counseling and drug or alcohol screening; May 9 Sp. Sess. P.A. 02-7 amended Subsec. (b) to add provision requiring the court upon issuance of any order assigning custody of the child to the Commissioner of Children and Families, or not later than sixty days thereafter, to make a determination whether the Department of Children and Families made reasonable efforts to keep the child with his or her parents prior to the issuance of such order and, if such efforts were not made, whether such reasonable efforts were not possible considering the best interests of the child, effective August 15, 2002; P.A. 03-19 made technical changes in Subsec. (a), effective May 12, 2003; P.A. 05-258 amended Subsec. (a) by deleting "at any time" and replacing "education and support of the children and of care, custody and visitation" with "custody, care, education, visitation and support of the children" re court making or modifying proper order, replacing "assign the custody of any child to the parents jointly," with "assign parental responsibility for raising the child to the parents jointly, or may award custody" and replacing "third party" with "third party to the action" re visitation rights, amended Subsec. (b) by replacing former Subdivs. (1) and (2) and other provisions re custody or visitation order with provisions re consideration of rights, responsibilities and involvement of both parents and new Subdivs. (1) to (4) re provisions that may be included in orders, added new Subsec. (c) re best interests of the child and factors that court may consider, designated provisions of existing Subsec. (b) re order assigning custody to Commissioner of Children and Families as new Subsec. (d) and made a technical change therein, and redesignated existing Subsecs. (c) to (g) as new Subsecs. (e) to (i) and made technical changes therein.

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      Sec. 46b-56a. Joint custody. Definition. Presumption. Conciliation. Parental responsibility plan. Modification of orders. (a) For the purposes of this section, "joint custody" means an order awarding legal custody of the minor child to both parents, providing for joint decision-making by the parents and providing that physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of continuing contact with both parents. The court may award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody where the parents have agreed to merely joint legal custody.

      (b) There shall be a presumption, affecting the burden of proof, that joint custody is in the best interests of a minor child where the parents have agreed to an award of joint custody or so agree in open court at a hearing for the purpose of determining the custody of the minor child or children of the marriage. If the court declines to enter an order awarding joint custody pursuant to this subsection, the court shall state in its decision the reasons for denial of an award of joint custody.

      (c) If only one parent seeks an order of joint custody upon a motion duly made, the court may order both parties to submit to conciliation at their own expense with the costs of such conciliation to be borne by the parties as the court directs according to each party's ability to pay.

      (d) In any proceeding before the Superior Court involving a dispute between the parents of a minor child with respect to the custody, care, education and upbringing of such child, the parents shall file with the court, at such time and in such form as provided by rule of court, a proposed parental responsibility plan that shall include, at a minimum, the following: (1) A schedule of the physical residence of the child during the year; (2) provisions allocating decision-making authority to one or both parents regarding the child's health, education and religious upbringing; (3) provisions for the resolution of future disputes between the parents, including, where appropriate, the involvement of a mental health professional or other parties to assist the parents in reaching a developmentally appropriate resolution to such disputes; (4) provisions for dealing with the parents' failure to honor their responsibilities under the plan; (5) provisions for dealing with the child's changing needs as the child grows and matures; and (6) provisions for minimizing the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict, encouraging the parents in appropriate circumstances to meet their responsibilities through agreements, and protecting the best interests of the child.

      (e) The objectives of a parental responsibility plan under this section are to provide for the child's physical care and emotional stability, to provide for the child's changing needs as the child grows and to set forth the authority and responsibility of each parent with respect to the child.

      (f) If both parents consent to a parental responsibility plan under this section, such plan shall be approved by the court as the custodial and access orders of the court pursuant to section 46b-56, unless the court finds that such plan as submitted and agreed to is not in the best interests of the child.

      (g) The court may modify any orders made under this section in accordance with section 46b-56.

      (P.A. 81-402, S. 2; P.A. 05-258, S. 4.)

      History: P.A. 05-258 added Subsecs. (d) to (g) re parental responsibility plan and modification of orders.

      Section applies only where parents are sole petitioners for custody of child and there is agreement of both parents to share joint custody. 90 CA 744.

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      Sec. 46b-56c. Educational support orders.

      Subsec. (b):

      Subdiv. (1): Use of "shall" means it is mandatory that court inform parents that if no educational support order is entered at the time of dissolution neither party may obtain such an order in future. 86 CA 719.

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      Sec. 46b-59. Court may grant right of visitation to any person.

      [ital]Roth v. Weston, 259 C. 202, applies retrospectively. 272 C. 500.

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      Sec. 46b-66. (Formerly Sec. 46-49). Review of agreements; incorporation into decree. Arbitration. (a) In any case under this chapter where the parties have submitted to the court an agreement concerning the custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance or support of any of their children or concerning alimony or the disposition of property, the court shall inquire into the financial resources and actual needs of the spouses and their respective fitness to have physical custody of or rights of visitation with any minor child, in order to determine whether the agreement of the spouses is fair and equitable under all the circumstances. If the court finds the agreement fair and equitable, it shall become part of the court file, and if the agreement is in writing, it shall be incorporated by reference into the order or decree of the court. If the court finds the agreement is not fair and equitable, it shall make such orders as to finances and custody as the circumstances require. If the agreement is in writing and provides for the care, education, maintenance or support of a child beyond the age of eighteen, it may also be incorporated or otherwise made a part of any such order and shall be enforceable to the same extent as any other provision of such order or decree, notwithstanding the provisions of section 1-1d.

      (b) Agreements providing for the care, education, maintenance or support of a child beyond the age of eighteen entered into on or after July 1, 2001, shall be modifiable to the same extent as any other provision of any order or decree in accordance with section 46b-86.

      (c) The provisions of chapter 909 shall be applicable to any agreement to arbitrate in an action for dissolution of marriage under this chapter, provided (1) an arbitration pursuant to such agreement may proceed only after the court has made a thorough inquiry and is satisfied that (A) each party entered into such agreement voluntarily and without coercion, and (B) such agreement is fair and equitable under the circumstances, and (2) such agreement and an arbitration pursuant to such agreement shall not include issues related to child support, visitation and custody. An arbitration award in such action shall be confirmed, modified or vacated in accordance with the provisions of said chapter.

      (1972, P.A. 164, S. 1; P.A. 73-373, S. 18; P.A. 74-169, S. 11, 18; P.A. 77-488, S. 1; P.A. 78-230, S. 34, 54; P.A. 01-135, S. 1, 3; P.A. 05-258, S. 1.)

      History: P.A. 73-373 deleted provision which allowed court to continue, modify, set aside, etc. final orders re custody, visitation, etc. "upon a showing of a material change in the circumstances of either party or of their children"; P.A. 74-169 amended section to remove requirement that agreements be written but to specify that, if written, they are to be incorporated by reference in court orders or decrees; P.A. 77-488 added provision re written agreements providing for care, education, etc. of a child beyond the age of eighteen; P.A. 78-230 restated provisions; Sec. 46-49 transferred to Sec. 46b-66 in 1979; P.A. 01-135 designated existing provisions as Subsec. (a) and added Subsec. (b) re modifiable agreements for the care, education, maintenance and support of child beyond the age of eighteen entered into on or after July 1, 2001, effective July 1, 2001; P.A. 05-258 added Subsec. (c) re arbitration agreement and award.

      Settlement offer could not be binding agreement without court's independent evaluation of agreement for fairness and equity. 91 CA 579.

      Written agreements for support of adult children may be incorporated by reference into dissolution decree or may be the subject of orders of court and are enforceable through contempt proceedings. 49 CS 238.

      Subsec. (a):

      Without separate evaluation by court to determine whether settlement agreement was fair and equitable, it could not become a settlement agreement as to the parties regarding their marital property, and court was free to distribute the property in a manner it determined was fair and equitable. 91 CA 579.

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PART III
SUPPORT OF CHILD AND SPOUSE.
TRANSFER OF PROPERTY

      Sec. 46b-81. (Formerly Sec. 46-51). Assignment of property and transfer of title.

      Subsec. (c):

      Court must consider all statutory criteria but is free to accord whatever weight it determines appropriate to each statutory factor. 86 CA 665.

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      Sec. 46b-82. (Formerly Sec. 46-52). Alimony.

      Court statements re consideration of criteria for alimony means it considered and decided issue of alimony even though there was no express finding on alimony. 85 CA 772. Court must consider all statutory criteria but is free to accord whatever weight it determines appropriate to each statutory factor. 86 CA 665. Trial court properly considered defendant's cohabitation in relation to her financial situation in analyzing statutory factors and determining whether modification of alimony was warranted. 88 CA 674.

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      Sec. 46b-83. (Formerly Sec. 46-50). Alimony, support and use of family home or other residential dwelling unit awarded pendente lite. Voluntary leaving of family home by one parent. (a) At any time after the return day of a complaint under section 46b-45 or 46b-56 or after filing an application under section 46b-61, and after hearing, alimony and support pendente lite may be awarded to either of the parties from the date of the filing of an application therefor with the Superior Court. Full credit shall be given for all sums paid to one party by the other from the date of the filing of such a motion to the date of rendition of such order. In making an order for alimony pendente lite, the court shall consider all factors enumerated in section 46b-82, except the grounds for the complaint or cross complaint, to be considered with respect to a permanent award of alimony. In making an order for support pendente lite, the court shall consider all factors enumerated in section 46b-84. The court may also award exclusive use of the family home or any other dwelling unit which is available for use as a residence pendente lite to either of the parties as is just and equitable without regard to the respective interests of the parties in the property.

      (b) In any proceeding brought under section 46b-45, 46b-56 or 46b-61 involving a minor child, if one of the parents residing in the family home leaves such home voluntarily and not subject to court order, and if the court finds that the voluntary leaving of the family home by such parent served the best interests of the child, the court may consider such voluntary leaving as a factor when making or modifying any order pursuant to section 46b-56.

      (P.A. 73-373, S. 22; P.A. 74-169, S. 13, 18; P.A. 75-530, S. 14, 35; P.A. 78-230, S. 35, 54; P.A. 93-7; P.A. 99-215, S. 6, 29; P.A. 05-258, S. 5.)

      History: P.A. 74-169 added references to Secs. 46-42 and 46-52; P.A. 75-530 referred to return day of complaint rather than to its filing date and required consideration of factors in Sec. 46-57 when making order for support pendente lite where previously factors in Sec. 46-52 were to be considered in making such an order; P.A. 78-230 made minor change in wording; Sec. 46-50 transferred to Sec. 46b-83 in 1979 and references to other sections within provisions revised as necessary to reflect their transfer; P.A. 93-7 authorized the court to award exclusive use of "any other dwelling unit which is available for use as a residence" pendente lite and to make the award of the family home or such dwelling unit to either of the parties "as is just and equitable"; P.A. 99-215 added "after filing an application under section" and substituted "a motion" for "an application", effective January 1, 2000; P.A. 05-258 designated existing provisions as Subsec. (a) and made technical changes therein and added Subsec. (b) re voluntary leaving of family home by one parent.

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      Sec. 46b-84. (Formerly Sec. 46-57). Parents' obligation for maintenance of minor child. Order for health insurance coverage.

      Parent's obligation to support his or her children exists only until age of majority. 49 CS 238.

      Subsec. (d):

      Trial court's determination of child support award reversed where trial court improperly imputed to obligor an amount of investment income unsupported by the evidence and not legally warranted. For court to impute additional investment income capacity to a party in formulating its support orders, court must find that party has unreasonably depressed investment income in order to evade a support obligation or that party's investment strategy is economically unreasonable. 87 CA 699.

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      Sec. 46b-86. (Formerly Sec. 46-54). Modification of alimony or support orders and judgments.

      Subsec. (a):

      "Pending motion" as used in subsec. means "remaining undecided". 88 CA 246.

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