Understanding the Distinction Between Child Custody and Visitation in Connecticut

When it comes to matters involving children during divorce or separation, child custody and visitation are key considerations. In Connecticut, as in many other states, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between child custody and visitation rights. This blog post aims to shed light on these two concepts and provide a clearer understanding of their implications within the context of Connecticut family law.

Child Custody in Connecticut:

Child custody refers to the legal and practical responsibility for a child’s upbringing, including their care, decision-making, and residence. In Connecticut, child custody is classified into two types: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical Custody:

Physical custody determines where the child primarily resides. It can be either sole or joint custody.

a. Sole Physical Custody: In this arrangement, one parent (the custodial parent) has the primary responsibility for the child’s physical care and residence. The non-custodial parent typically has visitation rights.

b. Joint Physical Custody: Joint physical custody means that the child spends significant time with both parents. This arrangement requires effective co-parenting and the ability to maintain a stable and supportive environment for the child.

Legal Custody:

Legal custody pertains to the right and responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including matters related to education, healthcare, religion, and general welfare.

a. Sole Legal Custody: With sole legal custody, one parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions on behalf of the child.

b. Joint Legal Custody: Joint legal custody involves both parents sharing decision-making authority regarding the child’s upbringing. It requires effective communication and cooperation between the parents.

Visitation Rights in Connecticut:

Visitation, also referred to as parenting time, allows the non-custodial parent to spend time with their child. Connecticut courts prioritize the best interests of the child when determining visitation schedules. While visitation arrangements can vary based on the unique circumstances of each case, there are different types of visitation commonly recognized in Connecticut:

Scheduled Visitation:

This is a pre-determined visitation plan that outlines specific dates, times, and locations for the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child. It provides structure and predictability.

Reasonable Visitation:

Reasonable visitation allows parents to work together and create a visitation schedule based on their mutual agreement, flexibility, and the child’s best interests. This arrangement is more flexible than scheduled visitation.

Supervised Visitation:

In certain cases where concerns about the child’s safety or well-being exist, supervised visitation may be ordered. This means that visitation occurs under the supervision of a designated third party or in a controlled environment.


Understanding the distinction between child custody and visitation is crucial for parents going through divorce or separation in Connecticut. Child custody encompasses both physical and legal custody, determining where the child primarily resides and who has decision-making authority. On the other hand, visitation grants the non-custodial parent the opportunity to spend time with the child. By being aware of these differences and the various types of custody and visitation arrangements, parents can work towards developing a plan that serves the best interests of their child. It is important to consult with a family law attorney to navigate the complexities of child custody and visitation laws in Connecticut.