State Laws and Legislation

Connecticut Custody and Visitation Law

Custody and Visitation for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Parents
There are no published cases dealing with custody and visitation for lesbian, gay or bisexual parents. State law, however, does not seem to permit the consideration of factors that do not affect the best interests of the child to be used in custody and visitation determinations.

Connecticut law states: “In making or modifying any order with respect to custody or visitation, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, giving consideration to the wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capable of forming an intelligent preference, provided in making the initial order the court may take into consideration the causes for dissolution of the marriage or legal separation if such causes are relevant in a determination of the best interests of the child. … There shall be a presumption, affecting the burden of proof, that joint custody is in the best interests of a minor child.”

The law would affect parents who had previously been in opposite-sex relationships as well as same-sex couples who have used the state’s adoption law to establish a legal relationship with their children.
The law also states: “In any dispute as to the custody of a minor child involving a parent and a non-parent, there shall be a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the parent, which presumption may be rebutted by showing that it would be detrimental to the child to permit the parent to have custody.”

Custody and Visitation for Transgender Parents
Connecticut courts have used a parent’s gender identity or expression to deny, restrict or modify custody and visitation.

In a 1996 case, M. v. M., U. v. U., male-to-female transsexual father of two children requested joint custody of her children and requested that they reside primarily with her and her current husband. The mother of the children wanted them to continue living primarily with her. The court considered the father’s transition as a “substantial change of circumstance” that would allow for a modification of custody. Although the court expressed some concerns about the father’s request to keep her sex change a secret, the court found that the father was the more organized parent and the children should live with her. The mother was awarded unrestricted visitation.

Custody and Visitation for Same-Sex Co-Parents
Courts will allow a former same-sex partner (with no legal or biological relationship to the children) to petition for visitation.

Connecticut law states: “The Superior Court may grant the right of visitation with respect to any minor child or children to any person, upon an application of such person. Such order shall be according to the court’s best judgment upon the facts of the case and subject to such conditions and limitations as it deems equitable, provided the grant of such visitation rights shall not be contingent upon any order of financial support by the court. In making, modifying or terminating such an order, the court shall be guided by the best interest of the child, giving consideration to the wishes of such child if he is of sufficient age and capable of forming an intelligent opinion. Visitation rights granted in accordance with this section shall not be deemed to have created parental rights in the person or persons to whom such visitation rights are granted. The grant of such visitation rights shall not prevent any court of competent jurisdiction from thereafter acting upon the custody of such child, the parental rights with respect to such child or the adoption of such child and any such court may include in its decree an order terminating such visitation rights.”

In a 2002 case, Lavoie v. MacIntyre, a same-sex couple had two children during their relationship. MacIntyre was the biological mother of both. After the relationship ended, both agreed that Lavoie could have visitation with the children. After six months, MacIntyre no longer allowed the children to visit Lavoie. The court found that MacIntyre had a “‘parent-like’ relationship with each of the two children” and the denial of visitation would cause harm to the children. It granted Lavoie’s petition for visitation.

In a 1999 case, Laspina-Williams v. Laspina-Williams, a same-sex couple had a child during their relationship. Cheryl was the biological mother of the child, and Lisa petitioned the court for visitation. Cheryl tried to get the petition dismissed. The court dismissed the petition, finding that Lisa did have standing to seek visitation rights.

In a 2003 case, Davis v. Kania, a same-sex couple had established a paternal relationship with a child under the law of California. They both were listed on the child’s birth certificate. The couple moved to Connecticut and the relationship ended in 2002. The court had not yet determined custody or visitation issues. Kania filed a motion trying to get Davis’ motion for custody and visitation dismissed, arguing that Davis was not a “parent.” The court rejected this motion for dismissal, stating that both men were parties to the action in California and the judgment ordering both men to be placed on the birth certificate did not contravene or violate Connecticut law or policy, and thus Davis could enforce his legal rights in Connecticut.

Citations: CONN. GEN. STAT § 46b-56; CONN. GEN. STAT § 46b-56a; CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46b-56b; M. v. M., U. v. U., 1996 WL 434302 (Conn. Super. 1996); CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46b-59; Lavoie v. MacIntyre, 2002 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3825 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2002); Laspina-Williams v. Laspina-Williams, 742 A.2d 840 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1999); Davis v. Kania, 48 Conn. Supp. 141 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2003).

Updated: Tue, October 12, 2004 - 11:00:10