A non-custodial parent does not have current, physical custody of the child in a child custody or child visitation agreement. Whichever parent has the child, is usually considered the custodial parent. For instance, one parent may have the child during the week, while the other has custody on alternating weekends. Commonly, the role of custodial parent alternates between parents and is laid out in the child custody order or the visitation schedule.

A non-custodial parent may also not have legal custody of the child, which simply means that they do not have the authority to make important decisions for the child. Typically, the parent who has majority custody (i.e., has more physical custody) of the child, also has legal custody.

What Authority Do Non-Custodial Parents Have?

Though non-custodial parents may not have legal rights to make important decisions for the child, they may have limited rights including:

  • The right to care for the child at the designated times and places set forth in the custody agreement;
  • The right to take the child to allowed places noted in the custody agreement; and/or
  • The right to report abuse or neglect by the custodial parent.

Each child custody case differs from the next, and the rights and responsibilities awarded to each parent will depend on the facts of the case. If a parent does not have physical custody of the child, they are not allowed to visit or take the child if unauthorized to do so within the custody order.

Can Custody Arrangements be Changed?

Yes, custody arrangements can be changed for a variety of reasons. Such as:

  • Custodial parent loses their job;
  • Custodial parent is moving out-of-state;
  • Evidence of child abuse/neglect;
  • Child voices desire for different arrangement; and/or
  • Parents wish to modify the custody order.

Ultimately, if the custodial parent cannot fulfill their duties or one of the above circumstances occurs, then a modification to the child custody order may take place. In this case, the court may:

  • Adjust the custody and visitation schedule;
  • Assign custody to the other parent;
  • Rewrite the terms of the custody and visitation schedule; and/or
  • Terminate the legal rights of one parent.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Laws?

Child custody laws vary from state to state, which is one of many reasons why you should consult an experienced child custody lawyer. Child custody issues can be highly emotional for all parties involved, and a qualified lawyer can help you determine your best course of action as well as represent your interests in court.