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

April 14, 2018

Unfortunately, not all marriages end like the stories in our favorite fairy-tales. Parents will sometimes decide to split up and have to make the tough decision of deciding who gets custody of their children. Some parents can reach a compromise regarding child custody and visitation, others will battle it out in court and a judge will make the final decision. However, some parents might be confused as to the difference between child custody and child visitation and how that might affect their children. Due to how complex and confusing these laws are, make sure to get in contact with an attorney who can help explain in more detail child custody and visitation laws in Pennsylvania.

Child Custody

The term child custody refers to two types of custody:

  • Physical custody: the physical possession and control of the child.
  • Legal custody: the right to make significant decisions about the child’s life. This is shared between parents regardless of who has physical custody of the child. Both parents will discuss and reach a compromise regarding substantial decisions. The non-custodial parent may also be obligated to provide child support.

Parents can choose to develop their own physical custody plan without the assistance of the court. If they can’t reach an agreement, the court steps in and decides which of the following four arrangements meets the best interest of the child:

  • Primary Custody: The custodial parent will spend most time with his or her child
  • Partial custody: The non-custodial parent can take the child out of the custodial parent’s control. Occasional overnights are also permitted.
  • Joint Custody: Also known as joint custody, this common arrangement is a shared physical custody agreement. Both parents will share time with the child equally.

Child Visitation

The last of the four arrangements listed above is child visitation. Child visitation is different from child custody in that a parent with visitation is permitted to spend time with his or her child but may not remove the child from the custodial parent’s control. Again, parents are free to decide on a visitation agreement without the assistance of the court. The court will only decide if the couple can’t reach an agreement. There are two types of visitation that you’ll want to consider:

  • Supervised Visitation: the court may decide on supervised visitation if one parent poses a danger or has never developed a relationship with the child. Supervised visits can be held in the presence of a chosen third-party.
  • Grandparent Visitation: Only in certain cases will a Pennsylvania court award visitation to a child’s grandparents. Generally, grandparent visitation can’t interfere with a parent-child relationship. It must also be shown that visitation would be in the best interest of the child.

If you’re battling for custody of your children or want increased visitation, get in contact with the lawyers at Kardos, Rickles, and Hand. We understand the importance of growing children having their parent present in their lives. Contact us to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your child custody options.

Child Custody