The Basics of Child Custody and Visitation

A gavel and colourful letters regarding child-custody and family-law conceptIf you are going through a divorce or are recently single, you know the stress involved. You know how much the separation can take from you — emotionally and financially. It is even more difficult when there are children involved. When putting the pieces back together, you need a custody arrangement that will suit your child’s needs.

Different states decide the matter of custody based on various factors to determine what the child needs. will be the first to tell you that it is essential to have a basic understanding of your custody options.

Legal Custody

If you have legal custody, by law, you can make all the decisions regarding the child. It could be health care, education or even religion. You have to have legal custody to make the decisions alone. If, however, you get joint custody, it means that you both make these decisions together. Note that you can have legal custody but still not be living with the child.

Physical Custody

Sometimes called residential custody, physical custody means that you have control of where the child lives. Like legal custody, the child could alternate between living with the mother and the father. The time they spend with either is divided equally.

You can also have sole physical custody, but the non-custodial parent gets generous visitation rights. A rare and expensive option for physical custody is the “bird’s nest” custody where the child lives at a central location, and both parents get to live with them for a given number of days in a week.


In the case where one parent gets sole physical custody, the other parent gets visitation rights that can either be supervised or unsupervised. For supervised visitation, the non-custodial parent has the leeway to choose their supervisor. In some cases, virtual visitation is advised, such as in cases where the non-custodial parent lives far away.

Divorce is grueling, but custodial arrangements make it easier for the children to undergo the least damage if at all. This is why most decisions should factor in the convenience and needs of the child. Whatever happens, though, both parents should be able to live amicably and enjoy a healthy part in bringing up their children, thanks to custody and visitation rights.