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What child custody and visitation options can courts order?

Sorting out custody arrangements becomes a top priority when a couple’s relationship comes to an end and there are children involved.

While many couples successfully sort out custodial arrangements themselves, others can’t see eye-to-eye on such issues. The court may have to get involved in those cases. There are a few different custodial arrangements that a judge may order depending on the circumstances.

Physical vs. legal custody

There are two primary child custody scenarios. These are legal and physical custody.

Parents or guardians with legal custody can make religious, schooling and medical decisions on behalf of their child. There can be both sole and joint legal custody. Joint legal custody is a possibility even when a couple doesn’t share joint physical custody.

Physical custody can be sole or joint. Parents who have joint physical custody may have their kids at their home during different portions of the week. Unless there’s a safety issue, a non-custodial parent is likely to have liberal visitation rights, including overnight ones, when their co-parent has sole physical custody.

When do visitation arrangements come into play?

Judges have a responsibility to make decisions that they believe are in a child’s best interests. There are various reasons they may deem it appropriate for a parent to have visitation rights instead of custodial rights, including when a mom or dad has:

  • Been out of their child’s life for some time
  • A violent past
  • Issues with substance abuse.

There are three primary types of visitation options that judges can choose from. These are:

  • Unsupervised visitation: This is the most common type. A child can spend time at the other parent’s home or in other places without another adult being present as part of this arrangement.
  • Supervised visitation: A judge often orders this when there are domestic violence or chemical dependency issues.
  • Virtual visitation: A judge may order a parent and child to do video conferencing visitation in instances in which they live far apart from one another.

Many parents make the mistake of assuming that custody is a guarantee. It’s not. You must be prepared to justify why you warrant these rights should negotiations with your co-parent not work out.