What are the differences between custody and visitation?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2023 | Custody And Visitation |

Forbes states that the United States recorded 689,308 divorces in 2021. Many of these divorces involved marriages that included children.

It is important to comprehend the distinctions between custody and visitation rights when it comes to determining the living arrangements and access to children following a separation or divorce.


Custody refers to the legal right and responsibility to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. It involves determining where the child will live and how to make major life decisions on their behalf. There are two main types of custody:

Physical Custody: This pertains to where the child resides on a day-to-day basis. In cases of sole physical custody, the child primarily lives with one parent, while joint physical custody involves the child spending significant time with both parents.

Legal Custody: This involves the authority to make important decisions regarding the child’s education, health care and overall well-being. Like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint.

Most courts award custody to both parents to give them equal time with their children. If one parent is unfit to care for the children, the court may award sole custody to the more stable parent.

Visitation rights

Visitation rights, on the other hand, focus on the non-custodial parent’s access to the child. Even if one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent typically has the right to spend time with the child through visitation. Visitation schedules can vary widely, ranging from weekends and holidays to regular weekday visits.

Factors considered in determining custody and visitation

Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody and visitation decisions. They consider factors such as the child’s age, health and relationship with each parent. Stability, the ability to provide a safe environment and each parent’s willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent are also important considerations.

Modifying arrangements

Life circumstances can change, and as such, custody and visitation arrangements may need modification. Courts may reevaluate these arrangements if there is evidence that a significant change in circumstances has occurred or if the existing plan is no longer in the child’s best interests.

Understanding custody and visitation rights is important in navigating family legal matters. Clarity on these concepts helps create a framework that prioritizes the well-being and happiness of the children involved.

FindLaw Network