For many New York parents going through a divorce, planning for a future of co-parenting can be very difficult. The process often involves dealing with child custody and visitation. While both refer to parenting time with a minor child, the two are distinct and separate. Child custody is not only about physical presence but also the right to make important legal, medical or educational decisions for a child.

In general, the child will live with the custodial parent most of the time. In cases of joint custody, the child switches homes on a regular basis. On the other hand, visitation refers to scheduled parent-child time, whether in the child’s home, the parent’s home or elsewhere. Visitation can be accompanied by a type of custody, however. While one parent may have primary physical custody, the two parents could share joint legal custody. This gives both the right to make decisions about important issues in the child’s life. In other cases, the parent who has primary or sole physical custody can also have sole legal custody over the child.

When both parents share joint physical custody, neither has visitation; they both have full parenting time. Joint custody requires a parenting schedule rather than a visitation order. In either case, the custody or visitation schedule may be ordered by the court or negotiated separately between the parents.

Parents who are going through a divorce may have a difficult time hammering out the details of child custody and visitation. By working with a family law attorney, a divorcing parent could protect their relationship with their children and seek a fair custody or visitation plan.