A non-custodial parent, as opposed to a custodial parent, is a parent who does not have primary custody of their child. For example, one parent may have custody of the child for several weeks, while the non-custodial parent may only have custody of the child for one or two weekends per month.

Additionally, the non-custodial parent may only have certain visitation privileges, such as only being allowed to see their child during the day or only during specific weekends (e.g., every other weekend). 

Oftentimes, a non-custodial parent might have set limitations on their legal rights to make major decisions on behalf of the child. This is known as having legal custody over the child, meaning the parent is permitted to make choices for the child’s well-being, such as their education or religious upbringing.

In general, there are two forms of custody: legal custody (mentioned directly above), and physical custody, which refers to having say over the physical location of where the child primarily lives.

Noncustodial parents do retain some rights, however, such as the following:

  • Being able to access the child’s medical or school records;
  • The right to pay child support payments (in accordance with both the child’s best interest and the parent’s income earnings in mind);
  • The right to spend holidays with the child (this could be for the entire holiday or only parts of it depending on what both the parties and court decides is best for the child); 
  • The right to report any abuse, neglect, or other factors exhibited by the custodial parent that have a negative impact on the child; and 
  • Various other rights that are generally listed in the parties’ child custody agreement. 

Although the above list generally covers the majority of rights that a noncustodial parent may have, each child custody case is different from the next due to the varying laws of each state and the individual circumstances presented in each case. 

Therefore, in order to have your rights protected as a noncustodial parent, you should consider contacting a child support attorney in your area for further legal advice about your matter. Not only can an attorney help ensure that your rights are protected, but they can also assist in determining whether or not you may have additional rights that can be exercised in regard to your child.

How are Visitation Rights Determined?

The non-custodial parents’ visitation rights are determined by a court’s analysis of several different factors, including:

  • The child’s basic needs and requirements;
  • The geographic location of each parent;
  • Whether or not there are any instances of neglect or abuse by a parent; and 
  • The schedules of both the child and each parent.

Prior visitation arrangements have the ability to impact a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights for subsequent children. 

It is also important to note that visitation orders can be modified when there is a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if the parents remarry or if one of the parents becomes deceased.

Can Visitation Rights Be Lost?

In some cases, visitation rights can be lost or revoked. This may happen when one of the following situations occur, such as:

  • When the parent has committed an express violation of the custody agreement that results in the loss of custody or visitation rights;
  • If the parent has become a threat to the child’s safety or well-being, such as if they are violent towards the child; or
  • When the parent’s current lifestyle is incompatible with the set visitation schedule. For example, if the visitation arrangement specifies that the non-custodial parent may take custody of the child every weekend, but then the parent moves to another country, this factor may alter the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights.

Again, these changes will be determined by the court and subsequently reflected in a judge’s child visitation order. Sometimes a parent will be permitted to contest their visitation rights, but this will usually be limited and only under special circumstances. 

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Custody Rights?

Understanding your rights as a non-custodial parent can be challenging, especially if you are used to being around the child on a daily basis. Therefore, if you are experiencing issues involving child custody, visitation rights, or any other family law legal issues, it may be in your best interest to hire a qualified child custody lawyer who is also located in your area.

A local child custody lawyer will be able to guide you through the process efficiently, can provide legal advice that is specifically tailored to your matter, and will know the laws that are applicable to the case in your jurisdiction.

Additionally, a child custody lawyer with experience in this area will know how to negotiate on your behalf in a manner that ensures your rights are being adequately protected, and can help prepare a case for court that addresses why your rights as a non-custodial parent need to be adjusted.