According to family laws and regulations, a "custodial parent" is the generally thought of as the parent who has assumed the main responsibilities for raising and caring for a child in the event of a divorce, separation, or other similar situations. It often refers to the parent with custody in a sole custody arrangement, as opposed to the other parent (the "non-custodial parent").

However, the term "custodial parent" can also have other meanings in different contexts. For instance, in a split or shared custody situation, the parents may alternate custody regularly (such as when one parent visits with the child on weekends). Here, some people may refer to the parent whom the child is with as the custodial parent. But generally speaking, it refers to the parent with comparatively more responsibility for raising the child.

Are There Different Types of Custody?

Yes, in order to understand the term "custodial parent" even more, it helps to understand the different types of child custody. Two basic distinctions that are helpful to know are "legal custody" and "physical custody". Legal custody refers to the parent who is entrusted with making important decisions on behalf of the child, such as those involving education, extra-curricular activities, and religion.

On the other hand, physical custody simply refers to which parent the child is staying with at the moment. So, the custody arrangement could work out where the mother has legal custody of the child, so she is entrusted with those various responsibilities. She may have physical custody of the child during the week, but on weekends, physical custody may transfer to the child’s father. However, legal custody will usually not transfer in such a situation. An amendment or change to the custody order may be needed in order to change legal custody.

Therefore, the "custodial parent" can also sometimes refer to the parent that has legal custody of the child. Again, these uses and applications of the phrase "custodial parent" can vary widely depending on the region and jurisdictional rules.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Custodial Parent Laws?

The laws that govern child custody and other family law issues can vary widely by state. You may need to hire a qualified child custody lawyer in your area if you need help with any child custody laws or any other similar issues. Your attorney can also provide representation if you need to go to court or file a lawsuit to resolve a dispute.