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The parent or parents with legal custody will make decisions concerning the child's or children's health, safety, education, and welfare. One parent can make these decisions alone, which is known as sole legal custody, or both parents may retain the right to make these decisions, known as joint legal custody. Joint legal custody means both parents cooperate on decision-making. Sole legal custody means only one parent can make decisions and obtain information from the child's or children's school and doctor, for example.
Physical custody determines where the child or children will reside. Sole physical custody means the child or children live with one parent and visit the other parent. Joint physical custody means the child or children reside with both parents.
Where parents do not share custody, the noncustodial parent is entitled to visitation with the child or children. Visitation schedules may be determined by the parties where there is no conflict. However, where conflict exists between the parents, it is generally advisable to establish a visitation schedule that will be part of a court order.
Visitation plans should be specific in order to avoid potential conflicts and eliminate confusion. In developing a specific visitation plan, parents should keep in mind that it can be helpful to specify when visits will occur to make the plan more enforceable. For example, if a parent will have the child or children every other weekend, it would be helpful to define that as "alternating weekends beginning on September 30,2005." The pick-up and drop-off times should also be specific, such as Friday at 3:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
This option is used when the child's or children's safety and well-being require that visits with the other parent be supervised by another adult, or a professional agency. In extreme situations the court may order that no visitation be permitted by the noncustodial parent because contact with the parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.
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