What Is a Custodial Parent?

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 What is the Definition of a Custodial Parent?

A custodial parent is described as a mother or father who, by order of the court:

  • Has either sole or primary physical custody of a child;
  • Is the parent the child spends most of the time with and;
  • Usually provides the child’s primary home and cares for their daily physical and emotional needs.

When a court grants sole physical or primary custody to a mother or father, the law considers that parent to be the child’s custodial parent. The system also considers that parent to be the custodial parent if the child’s other parent is absent. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows the custodial parent to claim the child on annual tax returns. Unless a court order states otherwise, the non-custodial parent is not permitted to.

Furthermore, a custodial parent is considered the primary parent who shares a home with the child. Generally, this implies that a court of law has awarded primary legal or physical custody to one of the parents, the parents have reached an informal agreement, or only one parent is involved in the child’s life.

Like any other aspect of being a mom or dad, custodial parenting involves numerous responsibilities. Even if you are on good terms with your ex-partner, being aware of the law before you need it is recommended.

What are the Different Types of Custody Situations?

Several different types of custody situations are common in family law. For example, when both parents have been awarded joint custody, the court might assign one parent as the child’s “primary” or “custodial” parent. Typically, this is the parent the child resides with most of the time.

Remember that most joint custody orders specify which parent can claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. When a joint custody order does not address the topic, both parents should carefully review the IRS’s rules before claiming the child for tax purposes.

Below are some brief descriptions of the different custody arrangements:

  • Joint physical custody means that both parents will spend time and see the child regularly;
  • Sole physical custody means that one parent is the custodial parent and that the child will reside with that parent most of the time;
  • Joint legal custody implies that the parents agree on how to handle significant issues that define the child’s well-being;
  • Common joint legal custody issues include major medical decisions, religious training, education; and
  • Sole legal custody implies that one parent has the authority to make all the decisions regarding the child and does not have to consult with the other parent.

What Are the Custodial Parent’s Responsibilities?

Everyday responsibilities for custodial parents include:

  • Ensuring that the child attends school, medical appointments, and religious education (if applicable;
  • Assisting with homework and school projects;
  • Providing transportation to and from extra-curricular activities;
  • Ensuring that the child has appropriate daily hygiene;
  • Facilitating court-ordered visitation between the child and non-custodial parent;
  • Providing clothing, food, and shelter, and;
  • Giving the child any other necessities.

How Do You Qualify to Become a Custodial Parent?

The procedures for becoming the custodial parent can depend on your relationship with the other parent. For instance, If you are filing for divorce from the ex-spouse and have not worked out an agreement, you must request a custody hearing from the court. If you are unmarried and cannot agree on custody, you must submit a formal request (“petition”) for child custody. In both situations, you must seek assistance from the court for sole or primary physical custody to become the child’s custodial parent.

If you and the child’s other parent can cooperate, you can negotiate the terms of your custody arrangement. This may include whether one of you will be the custodial parent, and it could be handled without a court fight.

If you and the other parent agree to a custody arrangement, you must have your agreement in writing and submit it to the court for the judge’s approval. Judges give a higher preference to any custody agreement the parents agreed on but will review it to ensure that it appears to be in the child’s best interest.

How Do I Obtain a Child’s Custody?

Parents have a fundamental constitutional right to their children’s care, custody, and control. Whether parents are married or not, each parent has control and responsibilities in the child’s upbringing. If parents divorce, matters such as child custody and how to become a custodial parent are at issue during the divorce.

These must either be negotiated by agreement of the parents or the court determines which parent should have physical and legal custody of the child. If the court decides, it will be based on what it considers fair and how it serves the child’s best interests. Sometimes, even non-parent custody may be granted to someone better situated to care for children.

What is Custodial Parenting?

Non-custodial parents may struggle with feelings of loss over being unable to reside with or spend equal time with their children. Meanwhile, the custodial parents whose former partners do not have any custody may struggle with feelings of overwhelm. Parenting is challenging, and parents who do the job alone do the work of at least two people, often with little relief.

Custodial parents may also have anger or hurt feelings toward their former spouse. They may grapple with including them in their child’s life. But if you are a custodial parent, and your child’s other parent is both a fit parent and willing to be involved in your child’s life, it is important to make an effort to keep the non-custodial parent involved for your child’s sake. For instance, you can do that by respecting any formal or informal visitation agreements.

What are your Rights as a Custodial Parent?

Encourage your child to contact their other parent when they desire to. Also, inform your former spouse about important and mundane facets of your child’s life. If possible, incorporate them into special or important events in your child’s life, like recitals, birthdays, sports competitions, and holidays. Keep in mind that informing your former spouse about up-to-date information about your child’s health, grades, activities, and social life will create a more meaningful bond.

The main priority in a child’s life is enjoying the company of both parents. As the custodial parent, you are best positioned to facilitate a relationship between your child and the non-custodial parent. Parenting post-divorce is not easy for anyone, whether or not they end up with custody.

There are legal resources to assist families struggling to ensure that high legal bills do not create even more of a burden for a family already dealing with divorce and custody issues. An attorney can answer any questions or concerns that might arise in connection with the requirements.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are a custodial parent and have difficulty dealing with your former spouse. It may be necessary to contact your local child custody lawyer in your area to assist you with the process. Your attorney can provide you with the legal guidance and representation needed throughout the court process.

Also, if there are any changes to custody laws in your area that might affect your legal rights and options, your attorney can provide you with updates and keep you informed.


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