Family Law 101: What’s The Difference Between Child Custody And Visitation Rights?

When discussions about child custody and visitation rights begin, it presupposes that parents are separating…

adobestock 293250086

When discussions about child custody and visitation rights begin, it presupposes that parents are separating and are in the process of setting an arrangement to protect the children’s best interests. This can be a challenging and emotional process for all parties. Hence, it is crucial to consider the child’s needs and each parent’s capability to develop a fair plan.

Before deciding on the terms, knowing the difference between custody and visitation rights is important. A good understanding of both will help you negotiate a fair arrangement as parents. Seeking the help of professionals like calling the Law Offices of Kaufman and McPherson, among others, is also recommended.

Family laws can also vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s best to consult a practicing family lawyer in your state to understand the laws and procedures regarding custody and visitation rights in your area.

Child Custody

Child custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions about their child’s upbringing. It is classified into two:

Physical Custody

Parents with physical custody can live with their children in one home. Couples share physical custody of their children jointly, but in cases of separation, the court may grant one parent sole physical custody if necessary for the child’s best interest. The decision can be based on financial capacity and home stability. Parents who don’t have sole physical custody of their child are usually referred to as noncustodial parents.

Legal Custody

This refers to the right of a parent to make major decisions in their child’s life. This includes decisions regarding healthcare, education, and religion. Couples share legal custody over their children jointly, even if the court only orders physical custody to one parent.

Noncustodial parents may not enjoy full physical custody of their child, but this does not mean their legal custody is taken away. Courts may order the children to be with one parent 24/7, but both parents will still make significant decisions about their child’s education, medical care, and religious practices.

However, in extreme cases such as child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, courts may terminate legal custody or parental rights altogether to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

adobestock 565593443

Visitation Rights

Visitation rights are typically granted to noncustodial parents to allow them to spend time with their children. This can be classified into the following:


Courts may grant a parent supervised visitation right, especially in cases where there are reports or allegations of domestic violence. This means the parent can only visit the child with the supervision of a neutral third party, usually a professional provider who reports to Child Protection Services (CPS).

Unsupervised Or Fixed Visitations

When the divorce is amicable or low conflict, parents may choose to have unsupervised visitations or agree on a fixed visitation schedule without the need for court intervention. This way, parents can arrange to have the children on alternating weekends, holidays, or extended periods during school breaks.

Parents must comply with the visitation schedule to ensure a healthy relationship with their children. In some states, grandparents may also be granted visitation rights to ensure the child’s emotional well-being.

Visitation schedules may also be modified. For example, when the noncustodial parent must move away for a job or academic pursuit, the schedule can be adjusted to accommodate the new location and distance. These modifications can be made by mutual agreement of the parents or by court order.

Courts may also deny visitation rights when the child’s safety is at high risk. This is common in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or when the parent has issues with substance abuse.

In Summary

Child custody refers to a parent’s physical custody and legal rights to make decisions about their child’s well-being. On the other hand, visitation rights will be granted when a parent is not awarded physical custody over their child. The parents themselves may agree upon the terms and schedule of visitation, but courts may also intervene to protect the child’s best interests.

The frequency and duration of visitation may vary depending on the circumstances, such as the distance between the parents’ homes or the child’s school schedule. Additionally, in cases where there are concerns about the child’s safety, courts may order supervised visitation or, in extreme cases, terminate the parent’s visitation rights altogether.

Consulting with a family lawyer is recommended to ensure matters of child custody and visitation are settled according to the laws in your state. A family lawyer can also help create a parenting plan that outlines the responsibilities and expectations of each parent. This includes decision-making authority, visitation schedules, and custody arrangements.

Stay Informed

Sing up to stay update with Baby Education, Parenting Tips, Gifts Ideas, Birthday Wishes and many More

Stay informed