Visitation is a rather straightforward concept. It is the right of a non-placement parent to spend time with his or her children.
Visitation may be supervised or unsupervised.
The vast majority of visitation is unsupervised. This generally occurs in one of three ways.
1) The parent who will be visiting with the child or children picks the child or children up from the placement parent's home at a designated date and/or time and then returns them to the placement parents' home again at a designated date and/or time.
2) The placement parent drops off the child or children at the visiting parent's home at a designated time and later returns and picks the child or children up at a designated date and time.
3) Both parents meet at a neutral, usually public, agreed upon location to exchange the child/children for their visitation and agree to return to that location or another suitable neutral public location to exchange the children for their return to the placement parent's house.
Supervised visitation generally occurs in one of two ways.
1) Supervised visitation is ordered by the court usually at a specified periodic interval (such as weekly or bi-weekly) and is set up through the Family Services Division and monitored by one of it's members.
2) Supervised visitation is ordered by the court at a periodic interval and sometimes a specific location. The supervision is usually performed by a family member or a third-party who has agreed to monitor the visitation and report to the court.
A partially misunderstood concept is that "placement" and "visitation" are contradictory concepts. However, in actuality that is not the case. If this section seems at all confusing, re-read the section of this website on "Placement". This may help you with a better understanding of the presentation of the idea that "placement" and "visitation" are only different in time spans.
Consider this example from a Final Judgment of Divorce.
"7. Plaintiff, Mother is awarded placement of the Minor Child, Nathan (DOB 12/1/95)."
"8. Defendant, Father shall have visitation with the minor child on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and every other weekend from Friday at 3 p.m. to Sunday at 7 p.m."
For many purposes placement and visitation are the same.
Placement is the right of the placement parent to physically have possession of the minor child the majority of the time.
Visitation is the right of the non-placement parent to physically have possession of the minor child on the specified dates and times as set forth in the court's orders or judgments.
As you can see the concept is very similar. Both concepts involve the right of a parent to have physical possession of the minor child on specified dates and times.
However, it would be incorrect to make the mistake that Placement and Visitation are identical for ALL purposes. There are three typical differences between Placement and Visitation.
1) Placement involves the right of the placement parent to maintain what is viewed by the court as the child's "home".
2) Placement carries with it the common view that that placement parent is the "primary caregiver" for the minor child.
3) Since the placement parent is viewed as the primary caregiver and presumably provides the majority of the child's care and needs, the placement parent is typically awarded child support from the non-placement parent.
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™