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What’s the Difference Between Child Custody and Child Visitation?

People often use the terms ‘child custody’ and ‘child visitation’ interchangeably, however, they are 2 different actions. Custody applies to the shared legal responsibilities and rights of the parents, while visitation applies to the time each parent spends with their child.

Child Custody

In California, one parent can have custody of a child (sole custody) or both parents can share it (joint custody). There are two types of custody a judge can award to parents:

Legal Custody

This type of custody determines who is legally permitted to make important decisions on behalf of the children. These decisions often include where a child will go to school, the religion they will follow, important health choices, where/when the child will vacation, and/or where the child will live.

If the parents share legal custody of the child, they must discuss these important decisions before acting on any of them. Failure to do so could result in legal repercussions for the parent who made the decision without consulting the other first.

Physical Custody

This type of custody occurs when the child is in the personal presence of either parent. If the parents share physical custody of their child, it does not mean they must split their time in half. For example, one parent can have the child 5 days a week while the other has the child for 2 days.

Child Visitation

Visitation (time-share) is the court-mandated plan for how parents share time with their children. The parent who has physical custody of the child for less than half of the time has visitation. There are a few types of visitation a court might order, which are:

Scheduled Visitation

A visitation schedule is meant to aid parents in dividing the time they have physical custody of the child. It is a plan that details exactly when the child will be with each parent by stating the days and times they will be together. These schedules often include holidays and special occasions (birthdays, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, school vacations) so there is less chance of confusion.

Reasonable Visitation

Reasonable visitation orders do not specifically state the days and times a parent will have physical custody of their child. Rather, this type of visitation allows parents to decide physical custody on a day-to-day basis. This order works best for parents who are on very good terms and are always willing to maintain flexible and friendly communication.

Supervised Visitation

If a child’s safety and well-being are not guaranteed in the presence of either parent, the court may order supervised visitation. This requires either the parent with primary custody, a trusted adult, or government agent to remain with the child while they spend time with the other parent. Supervised visitation can either be permanent or temporary.

No Visitation

If there is a chance the parent could emotionally or physically harm the child, even in the presence of another adult, the court could order no contact for that parent.

Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests

Whether you need help establishing child custody or visitation, our attorneys are here for you. We understand the importance of ensuring minor children maintain a relationship with their parents.

For your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation, call (818) 960-1330, or contact us online to schedule an in-person appointment.