Understand the Basics of Child Custody and Visitation Order

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‘Child custody’ is a legal term that describes the separated parent’s rights and obligations for their child care. ‘Visitation’ refers to how much time each parent will spend with their children.

Who determines child custody?

Courts don’t interfere, if parents reach an agreement about child custody and access. If the parents don’t agree then they have to go to court. The court will ask you to visit a mediator but still there is no agreement then the judge will determine custody and access court order.

The judge considers family, divorce, and child custody laws before making a decision. Judge gives custody as per what is in best interest of a child.

  • Childs age and health
  • Emotional ties between child and parents
  • Parents ability to take care of the child
  • Family history regarding substance abuse or violence
  • Childs association to home, school and community
  • Preference of the child

Sometimes, court gives custody to a third party because they feel it to be in the best interest of the child. This is called ‘Guardianship’, where a third person not a parent requests for custody because parents are not capable to take care of their children.

Types of child custody orders

Legal custody

Legal custody describes who will make crucial decision for raising the child regarding education, healthcare, and welfare. It can be in the form of –

  • Joint custody
  • Sole custody

In joint custody both parents need to communicate clearly and cooperate with one another, while making crucial decision for their kids or else they can end up in court.

Physical custody

It refers to with whom the children get to live with.

  • Joint [shared] custody
  • Sole custody

In shared custody, the kids spend 50% time with each one. However, it is hard for the child to spend half the time, so the parent with whom the kid spends more than ½ the time is called ‘primary custodial parent’.

At times, court gives joint legal custody to parents but not shared physical custody. The parent who is not given physical custody gets visitation orders to meet the child.

Types of time-share or visitation orders

Visitation schedule

It is a detailed parenting time plan to prevent confusion and conflicts. Court and parents draw up a detailed visitation schedule that tells when and till what time the child will stay with each parent. It includes times and dates of the week along with holidays, or special occasions. Transportation provision for visitation is based on mutual agreement and in case of conflict court makes an order.

Reasonable visitation

This order allows open schedule. This kind of visitations is not detailed, but need both parents to communicate well and be flexible for it to work. Alternative, if there is misunderstanding or disagreement then open schedule can be problematic for parents and as a consequence the involved children can suffer.

Supervised visitation

It is ordered for child’s well-being and safety, especially if visiting parent has drug abuse history or is abusive. Another person with whom the child is comfy with stays, while the other parent visits.

No visitation

In some cases, a parent has ill-treated the child, so even under supervision visit the child can get traumatized. Therefore, orders are passed denying parenting time. It is to protect the kid from more harm.

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