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Q: What is the ACTUAL or practical difference between Physical Custody and Visitation (or Parent Time)?

For divorcing couples in Utah who have children, Joint Legal and Physical Custody can be requested when both parents will have the children for a minimum of 111 nights.

However, in the case of Joint Legal and Sole Physical Custody, the custodial parent has the children at least 225 nights -- leaving up to 140 nights when the non-custodial parent could have the children.

So, clearly there is an overlap here where, in the case of either Joint or Sole Physical Custody, the would-be non-custodial parent could have the children between 111-140 nights. The only difference is that in the Sole Physical Custody case, the other parent obviously has "visitation" or "parent time" but NOT physical custody. But what does that really mean??


My wife and I are getting divorced and she believes that it is in the best interest of the children, due to their ages (3 and 5), to be with her the majority of the time. So, she wants to have Joint Legal and Sole Physical Custody. However, I'm an excellent father, and have a great relationship with my kids, and I firmly believe that our kids need more access to their dad than that.

Admittedly, I'm also very nervous (and broken-hearted) about this idea of completely giving up physical custody and only having "visitation" with my children! But, maybe I'm overreacting? Maybe it's just the label of "custody" that I'm scared to lose, and there's not really a practical difference??

So I need to know, aside from the distribution of nights the kids spend with each parent, what is the ACTUAL or practical difference between Physical Custody, and Visitation? If she has sole physical custody, I want to know what practical rights I am giving up that I would still have if we had joint physical custody?

Bear in mind that we are still agreed on having Joint Legal Custody.

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    Seriously: ask your lawyer, not us. – Dale M Aug 18 '17 at 23:51
  • @DaleM Err, ok... what's the point of this Stack Exchange site if not to ask about the definitions and ramifications of legal terms? OR rather, what's the difference between my question and the questions of other people on this site who didn't get told to ask their lawyer? – Brian Lacy Sep 21 '17 at 18:44
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    @BrianLacy: from the yellow box in the top right corner "Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner." You do not have a general, educational, or hypothetical question. Also, as the child of divorced parents, I applaud you for your efforts to maintain your place in your children's lives. Please follow this up with the proper procedure: HIRE AND ASK A LAWYER. (Your divorce lawyer, who you are probably paying anyway, is probably experienced in this aspect; custody disputes are not uncommon). – sharur Sep 21 '17 at 19:05

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