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What are the types of child custody and visitation?

In New York divorce cases, the two primary types of child custody that are ordered by the court are legal and physical. Legal custody gives the parent of a child the right to make important decisions related to the child. These important decisions include medical care, education and religion. Physical custody determines with which parent the child resides.

In each case, parents could be awarded sole or joint custody. Sole custody is awarded to just one parent, and joint custody is awarded to both parents. In relation to legal custody, sole custody leaves the decision-making to one parent, whereas joint custody allows both parents to make important decisions. Joint legal custody is common, allowing both parents to discuss the important issues. Sometimes the parents who are not awarded physical custody seek visitation rights with their children. Joint physical custody means that the child may reside with each parent for equal, or about equal, amounts of time. However, sole physical custody is more common, meaning that the child lives with one parent on weekdays and stays with the other parent on weekends or pursuant to a different but similar division.

Grandparents and non-parents may petition for the right for visitation, a process that is similar to parents petitioning for visitation or custody. Sometimes the non-parents are siblings who want the right to visit with their brothers or sisters. In these cases, the petitioners have to show that it is in the best interest of the children to have relationships with them.

Every child custody and visitation case is different, so it is important for both parents to be informed on the legal process. A family law attorney can be of assistance with respect to custody as well as other issues arising during a client's divorce.

Source: Findlaw, "New York Family Laws", December 29, 2014

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