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What are the differences between custody and parenting time?

On Behalf of | Dec 3, 2020 | Child Custody |

There are many changes that occur when people in Virginia go through a divorce. People separate a life that they shared and now begin living two separate lives. This means that they need to divide all of their assets and begin paying for two separate households. It also means that parents will be raising their children in two separate homes as opposed to one home. So, one of the major decisions that people must make during a divorce is child custody and visitation or parenting time.

These two terms are often used together, but they do address two different issues and are resolved differently.


There are two types of custody as well. There is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines which parent will make the major decisions regarding the children’s school, medical care, religion and other major decisions. Physical custody determines where the children will be living primarily and who makes the day-to-day decisions for the children. Parents can also have joint custody, meaning they will make the decisions together, or sole custody meaning only one parent will have the decision-making responsibilities.

Parenting time

This determines when the parents will have the children in their care or when they will be able to see the children. The amount of time that each parent will have the children is based on what is in the best interests of the children and can include extended periods of time with overnights or could only be brief sessions depending on the circumstances. However, even if one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent can still have parenting time.

Raising children in Virginia is not always easy when parents are married. It also does not get any easier if the parents get a divorce. However, how the parents make the decisions and when they will see their children certainly does change. After a divorce custody and parenting time decisions will now govern that dynamic of raising their children. These are complicated, fact-specific matters and consulting with an experienced attorney could be beneficial.

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