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What’s the Difference Between Custody and Visitation?

People often get confused between the terms custody and visitation. Although the primary purpose of both laws is to keep a child’s best interest, some differences exist.

This blog aims to outline the difference between custody and visitation, their types and what factors the court considers in deciding custody and visitation.

What’s the Difference Between Custody and Visitation?

In the process of divorce, custody and visitation are two vital aspects. Because splitting with your spouse doesn’t necessarily mean completely separating from your children except in some special cases.

Since it’s about your child, you need to cooperate with the court to determine what kind of arrangement is best for your child.

Go through the following information to know your parenting rights and understand the differences between child custody and visitation.

What is Child custody?

When you get custody, you can make decisions and take physical care of your children. There are two main kinds of custody orders as follows:

1. Legal custody:

Who makes major decisions for children, including education, healthcare, welfare, and religious upbringing? In most cases, parents aim to share legal custody. Because this way, both parents can make decisions in an emergency situation. But this is only possible if both parents hold the same opinions.

In this regard, there are two types of legal custody as follows:

· Sole legal custody:

Only one parent can decide about the child’s education, health, religion, and welfare. This custody is also known as parental responsibility, while another parent has no say about the child’s welfare.

In this circumstance, the non-custodial parent has visitation rights. Besides, they will be paying the child support.

· Joint legal custody:

Both parents can make decisions about children’s education, health, religion, and welfare. However, they don’t always need to agree on decisions. People mix it with shared physical custody by mistake. Yet that is a different plan.

2. Physical custody:

This confirms who the children can live with.

You may think of it as sole custody, but that’s totally different. You will understand it if you go through the upcoming section.

· Sole/ primary physical custody:

It refers to where the child will live and who will care for the child. In this custody, a child will live with one parent more than 50% of the time. The other parent can see the child from time to time.

· Joint physical custody:

In joint physical custody, children get to live with both parents. That means a child will spend time with both parents. In addition, parents will share the equal responsibility of the child.

What is Child Visitation?

Visitation or ‘time-share’ is basically for the non-custodial parent. Referring to primary physical custody, a child and the non-custodial parent can meet. And, the parent can spend half of the time with the children.

Usually, family courts try to award joint physical custody. But it is not always that possible to approve of that because of some factors.

For instance, one parent can successfully establish that the other parent is incapable of joint physical custody. Also, the other parent might live far away. In that case, primary physical custody is the solution. And the other parent gets to visit sometimes.

Now let’s know about different kinds of visitation orders.

4 Types of visitation orders

Visitation orders can vary depending on several factors, including the child’s best interest, the situation of both parents, etc.

        I. Visitation with a schedule

This particular plan helps to prevent confusion and conflicts between two parents. With the help of this arrangement, parents and the court set dates and times so that children can be with each parent.

The schedule also includes special days like – birthdays, vacations, parents’ day, mother’s and father’s Day.

     II. Reasonable visitation

Here, the court will allow two parents to decide on their own visitation schedules. That means it’s open-ended, and the parent need not visit in a defined time.

Note that this solution only applies to couples with a good understanding even after the separation. However, any issue that can arise between the parents and the child will be the ultimate sufferer.

   III. Supervised visitation

If the custodial parent reports or can prove that a child is not safe with the other parent, the court will give a ruling for supervised visitation.

For instance, the non-custodial parent can mentally abuse children. Or the non-custodial parent and a child might not have a real bonding yet. If there is a time necessity for bonding or getting to know each other, the court may grant supervised visitation.

   IV. No visitation

If the non-custodial parent is seriously harmful to children, such as physical abuse, there will be no visitation rights.

Leading Factors While Deciding on Custody and Visitation

The law succinctly says that it depends on what would be best for the child. And to determine what is in the child’s best interest, the court usually considers the following aspects.

  • Age of the children
  • Health condition of the children
  • Level of emotional bonding of the child with each parent
  • Ability of the non-custodial parent to take care of children
  • History of domestic violence, abusive characteristic, substance abuse of the non-custodial parent

The Process of Custody and Visitation Order

Generally, parents come to the court with their own custody and visitation agreement. That doesn’t require any court order. Regardless, the agreement will be enforceable if two parents can fully agree on the terms.

On the flip side, when one of the parents doesn’t accept the agreement, it is enforceable until the court gives an official order.

Final Notes

You now understand the distinction between custody and visitation. However, it is still sometimes unclear, which is very common. You can consult a family lawyer to learn more about parental rights.

In addition, you will require legal representation to defend your parental rights. For this reason, it is advisable to consult a lawyer in a circumstance like a divorce.

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