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Task force hears family concerns on cost of custodial decisions

In January, a Connecticut task force appointed to study problems in family court and child custody cases began releasing recommendations to state lawmakers. Among them was a proposal that the courts limit legal costs to families, specifically the fees paid to court-appointed child guardians.

In a public hearing held in mid-January, parents spoke for nearly fifteen hours before the panel, describing exorbitant costs that they say are ruining their finances long after their divorces are finalized. They spoke of going into debt, using children's college savings or their own retirement accounts, and having to sell their homes in order to pay for legal and other costs connected with child custody.

Family court judges are supposed to rule in favor of the best interests of the child. This is often an extremely subjective standard. If the child is old enough, his or her stated preference is taken into account, but this is only one factor. Decisions on custody sometimes requires psychological counseling for both parents and children. Social workers may interview the children and file reports on conditions in the homes. A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to represent the child's interests and submit recommendations on joint custody, physical custody and other matters. Parents report paying high fees for these services in addition to legal and court costs.

As the panel continues to study these issues, families continue to struggle to create optimal conditions for their children's continued well-being. A family attorney may be able to provide clear explanations of the details involved in child custody. He or she can advise parents as to what the various services actually do, and help to work out solutions that are truly in the children's best interests.

Source: New Haven Register, "Panel reviewing costs of child custody cases in Connecticut", Dave Collins, October 26, 2013.

Source: CBS Connecticut, "Reform Recommended In Child Custody System", January 31, 2014

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