2019 Connecticut General Statutes
Title 46b - Family Law
Chapter 815j - Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation and Annulment
Section 46b-54 - (Formerly Sec. 46-43). Appointment of counsel or guardian ad litem for a minor child. Duties. Best interests of the child.
(a) The court may appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem for any minor child or children of either or both parties at any time after the return day of a complaint under section 46b-45, if the court deems it to be in the best interests of the child or children. The court may appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem on its own motion, or at the request of either of the parties or of the legal guardian of any child or at the request of any child who is of sufficient age and capable of making an intelligent request.
(b) Counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child or children may also be appointed on the motion of the court or on the request of any person enumerated in subsection (a) of this section in any case before the court when the court finds that the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child is in actual controversy, provided the court may make any order regarding a matter in controversy prior to the appointment of counsel or a guardian ad litem where it finds immediate action necessary in the best interests of any child.
(c) In the absence of an agreement of the parties to the appointment of counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child in the parties' matter and a canvassing by the court concerning the terms of such agreement, the court shall only appoint such counsel or guardian ad litem under this section when, in the court's discretion, reasonable options and efforts to resolve a dispute of the parties concerning the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child have been made.
(d) If the court deems the appointment of counsel or a guardian ad litem for any minor child or children to be in the best interests of the child or children, such appointment shall be made in accordance with the provisions of section 46b-12.
(e) Counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child or children shall be heard on all matters pertaining to the interests of any child, including the custody, care, support, education and visitation of the child, so long as the court deems such representation to be in the best interests of the child. To the extent practicable, when hearing from such counsel or guardian ad litem, the court shall permit such counsel or guardian ad litem to participate at the beginning of the matter, at the conclusion of the matter or at such other time the court deems appropriate so as to minimize legal fees incurred by the parties due to the participation of such counsel or guardian ad litem in the matter. Such counsel or guardian ad litem may be heard on a matter pertaining to a medical diagnosis or conclusion concerning a minor child made by a health care professional treating such child when (1) such counsel or guardian ad litem is in possession of a medical record or report of the treating health care professional that indicates or supports such medical diagnosis or conclusion; or (2) one or more parties have refused to cooperate in paying for or obtaining a medical record or report that contains the treating health care professional's medical diagnosis or conclusion. If the court deems it to be in the best interests of the minor child, such health care professional shall be heard on matters pertaining to the interests of any such child, including the custody, care, support, education and visitation of such child.
(f) When recommending the entry of any order as provided in subsections (a) and (b) of section 46b-56, counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child shall consider the best interests of the child, and in doing so shall consider, but not be limited to, one or more of the following factors: (1) The temperament and developmental needs of the child; (2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child; (3) any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child; (4) the wishes of the child's parents as to custody; (5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child; (6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders; (7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute; (8) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child; (9) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments; (10) the length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child's family home pendente lite in order to alleviate stress in the household; (11) the stability of the child's existing or proposed residences, or both; (12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child; (13) the child's cultural background; (14) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child; (15) whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected, as defined respectively in section 46b-120; and (16) whether a party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program established pursuant to section 46b-69b. Counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child shall not be required to assign any weight to any of the factors considered.
(P.A. 73-373, S. 16; P.A. 74-169, S. 9, 18; P.A. 75-530, S. 13, 35; P.A. 78-230, S. 28, 54; P.A. 14-3, S. 2; 14-207, S. 14.)
History: P.A. 74-169 rephrased provision re appointment of counsel for children, deleting requirement that counsel be appointed “in any case where an agreement has been submitted with respect to such child or children as provided in subsection (a) of section 46-42”; P.A. 75-530 referred to return day of complaint rather than its date of filing and added general reference to hearing of counsel on all matters pertaining to “interests” of child or children; P.A. 78-230 divided section into Subsecs. and restated provisions; Sec. 46-43 transferred to Sec. 46b-54 in 1979 and reference to Sec. 46-36 revised to reflect its transfer; P.A. 14-3 amended Subsecs. (a) and (b) by adding references to guardian ad litem, added new Subsecs. (c) and (d) re limitations on court's authority to appoint counsel or guardian ad litem for minor child, redesignated existing Subsec. (c) as Subsec. (e) and amended same to add provision permitting court to schedule participation of counsel or guardian ad litem for minor child in a matter so as to minimize legal fees and provision re counsel's or guardian ad litem's ability to report to the court on medical diagnosis or conclusion made by a treating health care professional, and added Subsec. (f) re counsel or guardian ad litem for minor child to consider the best interests of the child; P.A. 14-207 amended Subsec. (e) by revising provision re when counsel or guardian ad litem may be heard on matter pertaining to medical diagnosis or conclusion concerning minor child made by a treating health care professional.
Annotations to former section 46-43:
Cited. 174 C. 244.
Cited. 7 CA 720.
Counsel for minor child appointed where motion brought to change order for the child's custody; it is in child's best interest to appoint independent counsel where motion made to change custody order. 31 CS 340. Cited. 33 CS 100.
Annotations to present section:
Appointment of counsel for minor child is in discretion of court and court did not abuse discretion in failing to appoint counsel. 180 C. 533. Cited. 181 C. 622; 186 C. 311; 196 C. 260; 198 C. 138; 207 C. 725; 224 C. 776; 231 C. 928. Under certain limited circumstances, minor children may appeal from trial court judgment concerning support obligations of the parents; judgment of appellate court reversed. 235 C. 82. Cited. 241 C. 767. Attorneys appointed by court pursuant to section are entitled to absolute, quasi-judicial immunity for actions taken during, or activities necessary to, performance of functions that are integral to the judicial process, and defendant attorney entitled to absolute immunity because complaint not grounded on any conduct by defendant in which she acted outside usual role of an attorney for minor children. 274 C. 533. Trial court may protect minor's interests in dissolution action solely through appointment of an attorney, rather than also requiring simultaneous appointment of a guardian ad litem or naming of a next friend. 276 C. 526. Trial court abused its discretion by appointing an attorney for minor children for a proceeding intended solely to address the matter of attorney's fees. 294 C. 484.
Cited. 8 CA 50; 11 CA 189; 18 CA 622; 23 CA 509; 32 CA 152; 35 CA 421; Id., 449; 37 CA 194; 39 CA 162; 40 CA 675. Trial court did not err in permitting attorney for the minor child to assert psychologist-patient privilege as basis for an oral motion in limine re communications made by the child, where defendant failed to request appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child. 72 CA 193. Duties of guardian ad litem may subsume those traditionally performed by counsel when counsel is the child's sole representative. 76 CA 693. Appointment of attorney to represent a minor child rests within the sound discretion of court. 78 CA 493. Attorneys appointed pursuant to section are entitled to qualified quasi-judicial immunity, and such immunity is properly pleaded as a special defense and the issue raised by using either motion to strike or motion for summary judgment. 81 CA 382.
Cited. 35 CS 237.