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Dispelling the Myths of Child Custody vs. Visitation


Child Custody vs. Visitation

Recently I’ve had couples of young children calling me with questions about custody.

Often, these parents have little idea that custody to which they’re referring is actually a question of visitation. In fact, many divorcing parents confuse visitation with custody and as such, it puts the fabric of their relationships in a precarious situation.

To that end, I want to dispel a few myths that surround child custody and visitation.


Is not defined as the primary residence of the children. Custody is the right to make major decisions, including: What school the children will attend, the children’s primary care physician, the religion of the children, and attendance at sleep away summer camp. Custody can be retained by one or both parents


Signifies the time children spend with each of their parents—especially when it is with the parent with whom the children spend less time.

There are many varieties of visitation arrangements. One parent can have the children living with him full time while the other parent gets the children for two weeknight dinners and weekends.

Factors in visitation can include: hours and location of parental employment, location of children’s school in relation to one of the parents’ residence, and the reliability and maturity of the parent.

In determining child custody and visitation rights, the decision is supposed to be in the best interest of the child. A knock down, drag ‘em out fight should be avoided.

Solely using the courts to make these decisions is expensive financially and emotionally. Lawyers can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more and can often be adversarial, prolonging the time during which a custody or visitation decision will be made.

Judges can make decisions about your future by relying on the advice of doctors who assess a family’s dynamics and mental health. But how well can these doctors get a true understanding of a family after only a few hours of evaluation?

Mediators are often much better equipped to help divorced parents make custody and visitation decisions. Mediators using psychology and other skills can help parents come to agreements that are in the best interests of everyone—without spending tens of thousands of dollars. Mediators can also help divorced parents make decisions without all of the hurtful emotion behind it.

I encourage my clients to consider mediation to work out their custody and visitation issues. It’s a better vehicle for all involved. There is no reason to add any more pain to the division of a family.

For any other questions regarding child custody, visitation, and how mediation can make this a peaceful process, please feel free to call me at 212.734.1551.