Officially released March 12, 2019.
In short: (1) obtaining a psychological evaluation requires substantive allegations beyond prescribed medication, and (2) the trial court has broad discretion as to orders of custody and, while it must articulate the bases for its decisions, it is not required to use the magic words “best interests of the children” in its order.
Father appealed from the trial court’s judgment on a custody application after an evidentiary hearing. The trial court awarded joint legal custody with final decision-making to Mother and primary residence with Mother.
Father claimed on appeal (1) the trial court’s refusal to grant his pendente lite request that Mother undergo a psychological evaluation left the trial court with insufficient evidence to accurately assess the child’s best interests, and (2) the custody determination failed to comply with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56 and 46b-56a(b).
The Appellate Court found that Father’s first claim was more accurately characterized as an claim that denial of Father’s motion for psychological evaluation pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §46b-6 was itself error, rather than a claim insufficiency of evidence. Father’s sole basis supporting his request was that Mother was prescribed a daily dose of Xanax. The Appellate Court applied the abuse of discretion standard and found no error.
Father’s second claim is based on (a) the argument that the trial court “failed to state that its orders were in the best interests of the child” and (b) that final decision-making was essentially an order of sole custody and the trial court failed to set forth the reasons for departing from the statutory presumption in favor of joint custody where both parties agree that joint custody is appropriate. The Appellate Court applied an abuse of discretion standard regarding custody and visitation rights.
The Appellate Court noted that the plain language of § 46b-56(b) does not require any particular weight to a given factor but does require articulation of the basis for the decision. However, the trial court’s ten-page decision clearly did articulate the bases for its decision, notwithstanding its lack of use of the magic words stating that the orders were in the child’s best interests. Father also failed to request articulation as was his burden under Conn. Practice Book. § 61-10 and 66-5.
The Appellate Court noted that both parties had requested joint legal custody, however, Mother requested final decision-making authority. “[F]inal decision making authority in one parent is distinct from sole legal custody.” See Desai v. Desai, 119 Conn. App. 224, 230, 987 A.2d 362 (2010).
The Judgment was affirmed.