A Custodial Parent is a parent that is granted custody of a child or children. This may happen in connection with divorce, legal separation, or other types of relationships. Child custody is dependent on a number of legal determinations, and not solely on the desires of the parents.

In many cases, only one parent is the custodial parent.  This parent has both legal and physical custody of the child, while the other parent has visitation rights (for instance, on weekends or selected days of the week). Traditionally, the child’s mother was named the custodial parent, with the father providing financial and other assistance.  More modernly, courts aim towards an equal distribution of custody between both parents, to allow the child to have a balanced upbringing.

What Are Custodial Parent Rights?

Custodial rights of the parents can be divided into two major categories- legal and physical custody rights. “Legal custody rights” allow a parent to make major decisions on behalf of the child. These are usually those decisions that need to be made regarding the child’s education, health care, and religious background.

Physical custody rights are those rights pertaining to the physical location and residence of the child. For instance, a parent may not have legal rights to make any child rearing decisions, but they may have physical custody rights on weekends. 

Parents who have both legal and physical custody of a child have what is called “sole custody”, especially where the other parent doesn’t have any visitation rights at all. 

What Happens If Custodial Parent Rights Are Violated?

Violations of custodial parent rights can lead to legal consequences such as a contempt order, or even criminal charges. One common violation is where a parent fails to return a child to the other parent at the appointed place and time. This can actually place the child in danger and may cause the parent to lose some of their custodial parent rights. In instances involving abuse or neglect, the parent may also face a protection order that prevents them from having custody of the child.

Thus, custodial parent rights should be followed in the way that they’re listed in a court order or child custody order. If the parents need to make changes to the custody order, they can file with the court to have the order modified. Otherwise, the parents should adhere to the custody and visitation order until they can obtain legal approval of the changes.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Custodial Parent Rights?

The proper determination of custodial parent rights can be very important for the care and upbringing of the children involved. When making such determinations, the courts will consider a variety of different factors related to the children and to each parent. If you need assistance with custodial parent laws, you may wish to hire a child custody lawyer for advice. Your attorney near you can help inform you of your rights, and can represent you if you need to attend a court hearing to obtain a judgment.