Child Custody and Visitation

What Does Child Custody Mean?

People usually think of child custody as determining the physical custody of their child, i.e. whom the child will live with.  Actually, custody can refer to either physical or legal custody.

What Is Legal Custody?

Having legal custody means having the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child, such as choices regarding medical, educational and religious upbringing.  Physical custody and legal custody are determined in a divorce.

Custody can be sole (in one parent alone) or joint.  In both legal and physical custody decisions, the court begins with a presumption that joint custody is the best option.  However, factors such as the age and gender of the child and whether there is any history of abuse can rebut this presumption and result in custody being awarded solely to one parent.  Even in the case of sole or primary custody, the other parent usually has visitation rights and is able to spend time with the child.  Mr. Hinden helps parents in divorce proceedings to ensure that they will have adequate custody and visitation periods to participate fully in their child’s upbringing.

Understanding Child Visitation

Visitation is the plan which outlines the logistics of how parents will spend time with their children.  Whether custody is joint, or sole, there will be some timesharing of the child’s time between the parents, and difficulties arising from this arrangement can best be avoided by drafting a detailed plan in advance.  Even in joint custody, the parents’ time is rarely divided exactly evenly, and one parent  often ends as having “primary” custody.

Supervised visitation can be ordered when necessary to protect the child’s safety and well-bong.  Supervision can be done by a professional agency or another adult, or it may be the parent with primary custody who is supervising the visitation.   For instance, if the child is especially young or has not seen the other parent in a long time, a visit supervised by the primary parent may be more comfortable for the child.

If the court believes that any visitation, even supervised, would be detrimental to the child, it may deny any visitation at all, and the parent will have no contact with the child until a determination is made that the child is not at risk.

Experienced Legal Representation is Key

Usually, if the parents can agree between themselves on a plan for custody and visitation, the court will approve the parents’ arrangement.  If the parents cannot agree, the court will order mediation through Family Custody Services.  If mediation fails, the judge will decide custody issues  in a court hearing.  At any stage of this process, it is important to have the advice or representation of an experienced family law attorney to help you obtain the custody and visitation you want with your child.