Common Arrangements for Child Custody and Child Visitation

When two parents separate, child visitation is often the key issue. In every state, parents are encouraged to make a determination on child custody and visitation without litigation. These parents are urged to create a parenting plan either on their own or with the help of a mediator or collaborative divorce coach. The court will get involved and litigate the issue, but usually only if there are extenuating circumstances (like abuse) or if the parents are unable to establish a custody or child visitation agreement on their own.

What Are the Most Common Arrangements for Child Visitation?

Regardless of whether the parents or a judge determine custody and child visitation arrangements, the custody arrangement can usually be classified in one of three ways: joint custody, primary custody or sole custody.

Joint custody is generally the term used to describe an arrangement where parents have substantially similar or equal amounts of time with the child. In a joint custody arrangement:

  • The child may live part of the week with each parent
  • The child may move back and forth on a weekly basis, spending one week with each parent
  • The child may move on a monthly basis.

Other types of joint custody or child visitation arrangements are possible in addition to these, depending on the needs of the child and parent.

When primary custody is the established arrangement, the child generally spends significantly more time with one parent than with the other. Some examples of primary custody arrangements include situations where:

  • The child spends weekends, or every other weekend, with one parent
  • The child spends holidays or other select occasions with one parent
  • The child has phone or Internet visits with a parent who lives far away.

Again, this is just a sample of arrangements that may be used in the case of a primary custody arrangement. These types of custody arrangements allow for the child to continue a relationship with both of his or her parents, even when living most of the time with one parent makes the most sense for the family.

When Are Sole Custody Arrangements Appropriate?

Sole custody arrangements are generally appropriate in cases where there is a specific reason (such as a history of neglect) that it is not in a child's best interest to have continued and regular access to both parents. Such custody arrangements may result in the non-custodial parent having no contact with the child or having contact on an extremely limited basis, such as a periodic supervised child visitation.

Custody and child visitation are often the most important factors in any divorce or separation. If you have a child and intend to separate from the other parent of that child, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to determine what your custody and child visitation options are.