A recent missing child situation from Connecticut is a reminder that a judge deciding a child custody case depends on the parties to provide much of the information needed to make a ruling on a child custody order.
In the Connecticut case, a father filed a petition in August of 2021 asking a New Haven court to award him full custody of his daughter. In 2022, in Puerto Rico, the mother filed domestic violence charges against the father, and a court there issued protective orders for the mother and the daughter against the father and also issued a warrant for the arrest of the father. In July of 2023, the New Haven court awarded custody to the father, apparently unaware of the case in Puerto Rico.
In late August of 2023, the father reported the daughter as missing to Bridgeport, Connecticut, police and claimed he had not had any contact with the girl or the mother since February of 2022. The girl and her mother were located shortly thereafter, outside of Connecticut, and were reported to be “safe and in good health.”
Police then arrested the father in Connecticut based on the warrant in Puerto Rico, and extradition proceedings were filed to have him returned there.
The Information Judges Consider When Ruling on Custody Orders
In Pennsylvania, a judge considering a child custody case is required to consider a number of factors, the focus of which is “the best interest of the child.” The Pennsylvania law lists 15 different factors that the court may use when ruling on which parent to award custody to, or in some cases, what the terms of any shared custody arrangement will be.
- The extent to which one parent is more likely to “encourage and permit” regular contact between the child and the other parent;
- The “parental duties” that each parent regularly performs for the child;
- Whether one parent has tried to “turn” the child against the other;
- How close the homes of the two parents are from one another;
- The availability of each parent to spend time caring for the child or to arrange suitable child care for the child;
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse involving a parent;
- Present or past abuse by a parent, whether against the other parent, against the child, or against anyone else, including whether there are any protective orders issued against a parent.
The last point is particularly relevant to the Connecticut situation, where the court awarded the father custody despite the two protective orders and the outstanding arrest warrant issued against the father in Puerto Rico. Had the judge been informed of the situation in Puerto Rico, it's unlikely the father would have been awarded custody.
The Lento Law Firm Family Law Team Can Help
Child custody disputes are emotional ones and can be complicated to resolve. And when parents can't agree on custody terms, the decision is left to a judge. When that happens, it's vitally important that the court have as much relevant information about the parents, the child, and the family situation as possible. The experienced family law attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team can make sure that the court has all of the information it needs to make a custody decision that is in your child's best interests. We will help you understand the child custody process, and will work with you to gather all of the information the court will need to make sure your child is properly cared for through what can be a very uncertain time in their lives, as well as afterwards.
Call the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team at 888.535.3686 to learn more about how our experienced family law attorneys can help you and your child when custody is on the line, or use our online contact form to set up a confidential consultation. We are here to listen and to help!