Child Custody Laws in the State of Connecticut for People Who are Not Married

By Cindy Chung

Updated July 21, 2017

When parents are married, Connecticut law creates a legal presumption that the husband is the father of children born to his wife. For unmarried parents, however, Connecticut law requires extra steps to establish a man's paternity of a child. After a man has established paternity of a child, he may ask for custody or visitation rights.

Paternity Laws in Connecticut

Under paternity laws enacted in Connecticut, the custodial rights of unmarried parents differ initially from the rights of married parents. If a man is married to the child's mother before the child's birth, or he marries her after the birth, the state of Connecticut considers him to be the child's legal father. If he and the child's mother never marry, however, state law requires legal action before he becomes the legal father and can request custody or visitation rights. A man who has never been the mother's husband may establish paternity by signing a voluntary acknowledgment or by completing a paternity action with the Connecticut Judicial Branch. An unmarried mother may also ask for a legal determination of paternity through the state courts or the state's child support agency.

Legal Standard for Child Custody

When two unmarried individuals have legal rights as the child's parents, either of them may request custody rights through an action in the Connecticut Judicial Branch. The court must decide on a custodial arrangement to support the child's best interests. Under Connecticut law, the court must presume that joint custody, shared by both parents, reflects the child's best interests unless one party opposes joint custody and the court can identify a reason to grant that parent's request. In a joint-custody agreement, both parents may make decisions related to the child's upbringing.

Child Visitation Laws

Parents may share physical custody of their child between their two households, or one parent may have physical custody with the other parent receiving visitation rights. If an unmarried father has legally established himself as the child's father through a voluntary acknowledgment or a paternity action in the Connecticut Judicial Branch, or if the mother has compelled a determination of paternity through the state's child-support agency, he has a right to request visitation. However, a court order or agency order for a father to pay child support does not automatically result in a guaranteed visitation schedule; the Connecticut family court must still review his request and consider the child's best interests.

Adoption Consent in Connecticut

When parents are not married and one parent wishes to place the child for adoption, the right to consent or to oppose an adoption depends on each individual's parental rights under Connecticut law. If an unmarried man has become the child's legal father due to a paternity action in a Connecticut court or through voluntary acknowledgment, or if the child's mother has identified him to be a possible biological father, he must receive notice of any adoption plan involving his child. After receiving notice of the adoption, the father may decide whether to sign a legal consent for the adoption and give up his custodial rights under state law. If unmarried parents disagree regarding adoption, the adoption agency may work with the parent who wishes to retain custody to develop a parenting plan.