In a joint custody arrangement, the primary custodial parent is the parent that spends the majority of the time with the child or children. For instance, if one parent has custody of the child during the week and the other parent only has custody on the weekends, the parent who cares for the child during the week is often called the primary custodial parent because they spend more time with the child than the other parent.

In most cases, the primary custodial parent is the child’s mother, though this can vary from time to time. The primary custodial parent also typically has legal custody of the child, which means that they are in charge of making legal decisions for the child.

How Is the Primary Custodial Parent Chosen?

When formulating a child custody arrangement, the court will always apply the child’s best interest standard. This means that the choice of the primary custodial parent should serve to benefit the child’s needs before any other considerations. When assigning the primary custodial parent, the courts will consider:

  • The person’s physical and mental capacities
  • Their financial background and ability to care for the child
  • The nature of their relationship with the child or children
  • Whether they have a criminal record or a history of abuse/neglect of the child

In many instances, the primary custodial parent chosen is actually not one of the biological parents. For example, the court may assign primary custody to a grandparent. This can happen in cases where the biological parents aren’t available to assume custody of the child.

Can the Primary Custodial Parent Be Changed?

Over time, the child’s needs and requirements may change. Also, the parent’s capabilities and availability may also change over time. Thus, the courts may often change primary custody from one parent to another. Or, they may assign custody to a completely different person. This is done by modifying the child custody order. These types of changes are considered major changes and generally require additional court hearings to accomplish.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Custody Laws?

Determining child custody is a major task that can benefit from the assistance of a lawyer. You may wish to hire a qualified child custody attorney in your area if you have any questions or issues that involve child custody. Your lawyer can be on hand to advise you and can also represent you during court hearings.