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What is the difference between custody and visitation?

Aug 21, 2020 | Child Custody, Divorce, Divorce & Family Law, Divorce Resources & Assistance, Family Court

Parents beginning the divorce process have many factors to consider when it comes to the future well-being of their child. Typically, both parents want to have as much time as possible with their child. It can be possible for divorcing spouses to work out arrangements for the child outside of court. However, if you and your spouse disagree about any aspect of child custody or child support, you will need to move forward with dispute resolution in court.

Child Custody

What type of custody is best for a child?

Whenever children are involved in a divorce, custody must be determined. Custody is defined as the responsibility for the care and control of your child.

There are two parts to custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions about your child, such as where your child goes to school. Physical (or residential) custody is the day-to-day care and supervision of your child. 

There are two types of legal custody: sole custody and joint custody. Sole custody means that one parent can make major decisions for the child without consulting the other parent. Joint custody means that each parent must consult with the other before making major decisions for the child and both parents must agree before major decisions for the child can be made.

One parent may have physical custody of the child or the parents can have shared physical custody of the child if the parents live in the same school district.


When one parent has sole custody of the child, the other parent may be granted visitation. This is time that the non-custodial parent is entitled to spend with the child on a set schedule. Visitation is also known as “parenting time.” However, visitation may also be approved for other people involved in a child’s life, including grandparents and siblings.

Determining Custody And Visitation

Ideally, child custody and visitation terms will be settled outside of court, with the help of an experienced attorney. However, should that not be possible, a child custody hearing will be scheduled and an Attorney for the Children will be assigned by the court.

The goal of the court is always to satisfy the best interests of the child. In a hearing to determine custody and visitation, the judge will gather as much information as possible about both parents, their relationship with the child, and both home environments before deciding on terms for child custody and visitation. The court will also consider the wishes of the children by receiving reports from the Attorney for the Children. How much weight the children’s wishes will be given depends on a variety of circumstances such as the children’s ages and maturity.

Following a custody determination, a parent seeking visitation with a child may file a petition in Family Court against the parent or other party who has custody. The court will determine whether the visitation time is in the best interests of the child.

Occasionally, visitation will only be granted if it is supervised. This means that another adult is present with the parent and the child during visitation time. A judge will order supervised visitation if the health and safety of the child is in question when in the company of the non-custodial parent. The supervisor may be the custodial parent or a family member if all parties agree. The supervisor would be named in the court order. There are a number of reasons that supervised visitation would be granted, including substance abuse or a history of violence by the non-custodial parent.

Get Personalized Legal Advice

We understand that going from being with your child full-time to part-time is a complicated and often emotional transition. You will need the help of an experienced family law attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child once your divorce is finalized. Call Bates Family Law today at (585) 433-4661 to schedule your free consultation.

Schedule a Consultation

Working with an attorney is a highly personal experience and it is of utmost importance that you feel comfortable with us. We are confident that once you get to know us, you will want to work together. You can set up your consultation by email or phone. We look forward to meeting you.

Conveniently located between Rochester and Canandaigua, servicing all of Monroe and Ontario counties including Pittsford, Brighton, Penfield, Fairport, Farmington, and Victor.


(585) 433-4661

Victor, NY 14564

What our clients are saying...

“Alison represented our daughter from birth until the finalization of her adoption. She was the most knowledgeable, patient, and thorough attorney we could possibly have worked with. While navigating the Family Court system can be incredibly confusing and taxing, Alison took the time to explain every step, and advocated tirelessly for the best interests of our child.”

– Julia C.

“Alison helped me get my kids back in my life! I had an order of protection against me that didn’t allow me to see my kids for 3 months... The day after the court date I was able to see my kids again... I can’t imagine what the outcome would have been if I didn’t have Alison in my corner.  Forever Grateful!”

– Mike P.

“Alison Bates is not just my attorney. Alison Bates is a warrior who battled to make sure my son and I could be together. Alison Bates was my light on a very dark, lonely and scary path. Now I look into my son's eyes and it is hard not to think about Alison and all she did in helping me maintain that unbreakable bond.”

– Mark I.

“Alison has been phenomenal during a very challenging divorce. Her empathy and compassion for my situation while being direct with the realities of the legal system were reassuring and made me feel secure in the path we were taking every step of the way...”

– Tiffany R.

“Alison was a source of compassion and support to me during a very difficult time. She is very knowledgeable and a strong advocate when needed. I appreciated her prompt responses and straightforward manner. When things became difficult, I felt glad to have her in my corner.”

– Kristen H.

When I first met Alison, I was a recently separated father experiencing parental alienation and was having limited access to my child despite my requests to the mother. Alison explained to me that what I was experiencing was not uncommon early on in the separation process and fought hard on my behalf to resolve the matter in a fair and equitable way. Alison was efficient, reliable, and provided clear communication throughout the entire process. I would highly recommend her representation in any family law or divorce proceedings.

– Cory G.

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Bates Family Law, P.C. • (585) 433-4661