Often people going through a divorce think that child visitation and child custody rights are one in the same and are merely interchangeable terms. However, that is simply not the case.
Child custody breaks down into various components. First, there is legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to which parent has the responsibility to make the decisions that effect a child’s health, education, safety, and general welfare.
Joint legal custody means that both parents participate in these decisions.
Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the legal right to make these decisions for the child.
Physical custody refers to which residence the child will stay at. A court might decree joint physical custody, in which the child spends specific amounts of time with both parents. However, a judge may also decree sole physical custody where a child will stay with just one of the parents. The court may decide to do this to provide a more secure base for the child, for example.
Once again, there are nuances. A parent can be issued sole physical custody of a child, but the other non-custodial parent may still retain joint legal custody. So, even if a child doesn’t physically live with the other parent, that non-custodial parent still has a legal right to participate in decisions that affect the child’s life – such as what religion he or she will be raised in, for instance.
Regardless of where the child spends a majority of his or her time, a non-custodial parent is still entitled to visitation rights. In Florida, the guidelines for these rights are very specific and deal with whether the parents of a child live close to each other or live a long distance from each other. The court may decide that a parent may only visit a child while supervised by the custodial parent, another adult, a representative from a governmental agency or even law enforcement officer.
Making the right decisions about custody and visitation is important. The family law attorneys at Farah & Farah in Gainesville can help you make those decisions and will look after your best interests and the interests of your children. If you are contemplating divorce proceedings, call us at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online.
We are here to help you during a stressful and difficult time in your life.