Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford, Hartford
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE CUSTODY AND SUPPORT
Stewart Johnson, J.
This matter comes before the court by way of an application for custody filed on May 2, 2014 by Jamal Gatling (hereinafter " plaintiff' or " father") against Monique Daley (hereinafter " defendant" or " mother") seeking custody, support, primary decision-making and designated access time between the parties of one minor child, Naia Monique Gatling, born on July 1, 2006. The defendant in her cross-complaint filed on May 7, 2014, seeks custody, support and primary residency as well as a court-ordered access/holiday schedule for the minor child. Both parties were properly served. The court conducted a trial on the matter on May 4, 2015 in which several stipulations were reached by the parties. Both parties were represented by counsel and testified on their own behalf. Proposed orders and child support guidelines were submitted by the parties.
The parties never married and have lived apart for over one year.
The plaintiff resides in Southington, Connecticut and is employed by the State of Connecticut in Hartford. He has extended family in the greater Hartford area that assists him in caring for the minor. He is concerned that the lack of coordination between himself and the defendant on many issues will result in the loss of opportunities for their child. Based on the parties' failure to reach agreements in the past, father is seeking final decision making.
Father is interested in his child developing her educational abilities as well as her study of cultural activities such as dance and violin. The child attends a magnet school and will be required to change schools when she enters grade 5 and then again when she enters high school.
The plaintiff also expresses concern about the defendant's abuse of his employment email and telephone for non-emergency purposes. The plaintiff proposes they use the online Family Wizard as it is the most efficient means by which the parties can communicate regarding routine appointments, information and decision making for the minor child.
The defendant is employed by the City of Hartford and resides in Hartford, Connecticut. She has extended family in Connecticut who assists her in caring for the minor child.
The defendant agrees that communication between the parties is not working and admits to using the plaintiff's employment email and telephone to reach him for non-emergency matters. She expresses frustration with the plaintiff's lack of response to her inquiries which results in her aggressively pursuing alternative methods of communication. The defendant acknowledges that her emails, phone calls and personal confrontations have been ineffective but suggests no viable alternative.
The defendant believes the child will attend a magnet school for grade 5 and the parties should be able to make a selection in the best interest of the child. Mother is also concerned with issues regarding hygiene and extracurricular activity conflicts which have arisen over the last year. She believes she should have increased access time for the child with the plaintiff's access taking place on alternating weekends and holidays.
Both parties have medical coverage for the minor child and make salaries which enable them to provide clothing, nutrition and social activities for the minor child. Both express an interest in traveling out-of-state to expose the child to other cultures. They have a strong appreciation for family, tradition and the benefits of higher education.
During the trial the court observed the different ways the parties' communicated. The plaintiff is calm, concise and unemotional in his responses. He exhibits a businesslike demeanor which is consistent with his employment. His responses to cross-examination questions were appropriate and non-confrontational or demeaning. He appears able to care for his daughter's daily needs in all areas of her development.
As the plaintiff's employer's communication materials are often the subject of Freedom of Information requests, it is against its policy for employees to utilize emails for personal use. Therefore, plaintiff's request for an indirect method of communication with the defendant is substantiated.
The court observed the defendant to be emotionally responsive, excitable and easily provoked. The defendant willingly admits to being insulting, mean-spirited and physically attacking the plaintiff in response to her perceived lack of response from him. She has included the plaintiff's family members in her written expressions regarding harmful and unsolicited opinions about their lifestyles and abilities. She possesses an inability to control herself emotionally and has demonstrated a tendency to seek multiple means of communication without regard for the policies of the plaintiff's employer or the plaintiff's expressed wishes.
In other areas of her life the defendant is an articulate, productive member of the Hartford community. The court is mindful of how emotional this process is for parents and hopes that these parties develop appropriate communication skills which will benefit their minor child. To that end, the court concludes that co-parenting counseling is warranted.
Plaintiff's net weekly income based on his financial affidavit is $539.01. Under the Child Support Guidelines, the plaintiff would pay $129 per week in child support to the defendant, and be responsible for 62% of unreimbursed medical and childcare expenses.
Defendant's net income based on her financial affidavit is $598.16. Under the Child Support Guidelines, the defendant would pay $119 per week in child support to the plaintiff, and be responsible for 38% of unreimbursed medical and childcare expenses.
One of the criteria the court must consider when entering orders regarding custody in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56 is (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." It is clear that both parties love their child. Unfortunately they are unable to co-parent in an appropriate fashion and communicate effectively on the basic decisions of everyday life. Conflicts have arisen over school projects, access time and clothing, resulting in angry confrontations before the child.
Having considered the evidence presented, the findings of the court and governing law, as well as the testimony of the witnesses and the best interest of the minor child, the court ORDERS:
Joint legal custody of the minor child is granted to both parties. The court shall retain jurisdiction of primary residency for educational purposes. Neither party shall withdraw the minor child from ...