Child Custody and Visitation

Making custody decisions is always the most painful part of divorcing. Being clear about your options from the start may make tough decisions easier.

Types of Custody

  • Legal Versus Physical Custody

    Legal custody is the right to make decisions about your child, including:

    • Education
    • Religion
    • Medical issues
    • Discipline

    Physical custody is having the child physically present with you.

  • Sole Versus Joint Custody

    With sole custody, you alone have legal and physical custody of your child.

    In a joint custody arrangement, you and your ex-spouse share legal and/or physical custody of the child. This might mean:

    • Having the child spend a significant amount of time with each parent
    • Spending weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other parent
    • The child spending most of his or her time with one parent and visiting with the other parent on a regular schedule
    • The parents moving in and out of a home where the children live (called "nesting")

    Parenting Agreements

    Most states require divorcing parents to have a written plan outlining:

    • Where the child will live
    • Details of when the child will be with the noncustodial parent
    • Who will make parenting decisions and how
    • Where the child will be during holidays and school vacations
    • How vacation time with each parent will be determined
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