Peter Frampton filed for divorce from his third wife, Christina Elfers-Frampton, on June 21. The couple has a 15 year old daughter. The story varies from one news outlet to the next, with one stating that he wants joint legal custody but for primary physical to go to Elfers, and another stating that he wants only visitation time.
When clients first arrive at our office they are often confused about terms like “sole custody,” “joint custody,” “visitation,” and “shared parenting.” And this confusion no doubt led to the just as confusing conflicting reports on Frampton’s family situation.
At the outset, it is important to understand that custody and visitation are two separate concepts. “Custody” refers not only to where a child physically lives, but also to which parent has the legal right and responsibility to make important decisions for the child. “Visitation,” on the other hand, refers to the time that the child spends with each parent. And the possible combinations of custody and visitation are just as diverse as the families who are subject to orders regarding them.
Sole custody may be awarded to one parent, either in a situation where the other parent does not want custody for whatever reason, or if the court finds that it is in the child’s best interest for only one parent to have custody. A court might make such a decision if, for example, the other parent is unfit, or if shared parenting doesn’t make sense because the parents live a substantial distance apart or if they can’t set aside their differences long enough to cooperatively raise their child.
Conversely, joint custody, also known as “shared parenting,” can be awarded if both parents want it and/or the court determines that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child. In the majority of situations shared parenting is preferable, and the courts generally feel that children benefit the most from having both parents involved in their lives.
Regardless of whether custody is shared or sole, a visitation schedule will almost certainly be granted except in extreme cases such as abuse. In Ohio, most counties have set out a standard schedule that represents that sets out a guaranteed minimum amount of time that a parent will be entitled to see his or her child. A typical schedule is every other weekend, and often a mid-week visitation of several hours. Holidays and school breaks are divided as evenly as possible. And, due to work and school schedules these standard visitation schedules work well for many divorcing families. However, modification of the standard schedules is extremely common as well and the courts are committed to finding a schedule that will work best for all involved, with the child’s best interests as the primary determining factor.
In Frampton’s case, if he doesn’t want custody, he, like other similarly situated parents, will not likely find himself forced into such an arrangement. But if it turns out that he does want to share custody, a shared parenting arrangement can be granted even over Elfers’ objections. In any eventuality, he will almost certainly be awarded visitation time with his daughter on a schedule that will work the best for him, for Elfers, and, most importantly, for their child.