When you are the parent of a child, there are lots of things to consider. This is especially true if you and your child’s other parent are not married, dating, or cohabitating. In situations where a child’s parents live apart, the court often has to get involved as a matter of custody.
If you are navigating a custody agreement, it is important to understand the available options. When you understand the custody arrangements that may be assigned to you, you can better argue for what is best for you and your children. What’s more, you must understand the child custody and visitation process to exercise your rights. Custody issues are more common than many people think, and it is easy to find yourself in legal disagreements over custody arrangements.
Potential Custody Agreements
When a court determines child custody, their only concern is what is best for the child. Though the parents may have their own opinions and preferences, the decision will ultimately come down to what situation is best for the child. Child custody arrangements can vary.
Ideally, parents will share custody. In this situation, the child or children spend equal time under the guardianship of each parent. The setup for this can come in different forms, such as one week with one parent and one week with another, or four days with one parent and three with the other. In shared custody situations, the court often allows the parents to decide which setup works for them, as long as the time is relatively even.
Partial custody occurs when one parent has guardianship over the children for the majority of the time while the other parent has guardianship regularly but less frequently. This could be weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other, for example.
Visitation occurs when one parent has the majority of custody, and the other parent has the right to spend time with the child but is not necessarily their guardian. Perhaps the parent will have visitation hours once a month, for example.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody
An important distinction is the difference between physical and legal custody. When a parent has physical custody, they are the guardians of the child. They are responsible for feeding, housing, and meeting the needs of the children. Physical custody is the most commonly understood aspect of custody.
Legal custody encompasses important decisions regarding the child’s health and wellbeing. A parent with legal custody may make decisions about their healthcare in a medical setting or emergency, for example.
Parents do not automatically get both physical and legal custody. In shared custody situations, the parents often do share both physical and legal custody. However, it is possible for a parent to have physical custody without having legal custody. Many parents have partial custody or visitation rights without having legal custody of the child. Though it is rare, a parent may have legal custody without having physical custody.
Most parents with visitation do not have legal custody of their child. Though they can take care of the child for small amounts of time and may even take care of the child overnight or over a weekend, they are not allowed to make major medical decisions on the child’s behalf.
Visitation is a unique type of custody agreement. This is because the parent has access to their children in some capacity, but usually not enough to fully be in charge. Parents with visitation do not often have legal custody, meaning that they cannot make decisions about a child’s healthcare or other such issues. In some situations, the court outlines the times or the frequencies that the visiting parent will spend with their child.
Reasonable visitation occurs when the court decides that a parent has visitation rights but does not outline when those visitations have to be. Rather, they allow the parents to determine when the visitations should occur in accordance with their schedules. The visitation times may not even be regular but may instead change month by month, depending on the family’s needs and availability. Reasonable visitation simply says that the custodial parent must allow the non-custodial parent a fair amount of time each month to see their children.
This setup relies on the parents to be level-headed and fair. Visitation schedules can be complicated, so parents need to be flexible. If parents do not get along or communicate well, the court may not be able to give reasonable visitation. Rather, they will have to outline the times that the visiting parent can see their child.
Though visitation may not feel like a binding custody agreement, it is so in the eyes of the court. A judge grants visitation purposefully to ensure the best interests of the child. A parent cannot withhold their child from a parent with visitation, as doing so would be a violation of the custody agreement.
If you have visitation rights and your child’s other parent attempts to withhold them from you or fails to give you proper visiting time, you have the right to take legal action. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can make sure that the court enforces your child custody agreement and that you get the visitation time that you deserve. Visiting parents still care deeply for their children, and it is unacceptable for a child’s custodial parent to deny them access.
Contact Khalaf Law Group
Whether you are in the process of creating a custody agreement, modifying a custody agreement, or need to bring a custody violation forward in court, our team at Khalaf Law Group can help you to navigate the situation. We understand the importance of having access to your child, no matter what your marital status may be. Parents with visitation need to have reasonable access to their children, and if you are not getting that, you need to bring your issue forward in court. We will fight diligently for your rights to ensure that you receive the time with your children that you rightfully deserve.
For more information about how we can help you and your family, please contact Khalaf Law Group online today.