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What is the Difference Between a Custodial Parent and a Non-Custodial Parent?

The terms custodial parent and non-custodial parent are used in instances where two parents of a child are no longer living together. Legal custody means the right and respnsibility to make vital decisions on the child's health, educaiton, medical care, discipline, religion, and other similar issues.Whether the parents have divorced or were never married, a custody arrangement will generally have to be determined and made legally enforceable by a court.

Traditionally, custody of the child is given to one parent (called the custodial parent) while the other parent (the noncustodial parent) may visit, depending on the circumstances, with the child.

What are custody agreements? Since a child physically cannot be in two places at once, some determination must be made as to where he or she will live when the parents do not reside in the same household. While a child's time can sometimes be shared equally between both parents, one of the more common arrangements involves naming a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. The child will live with the custodial parent for the bulk of the time. Provided there is no abuse, neglect or compelling reason to prevent visits, the child will generally also have regular visits scheduled with the non-custodial parent. These visits may be every other weekend, on holidays and vacations, or by phone/Skype in the event that there is a geographical separation between the parents.

What is required of a non-custodial parent? A designation as a non-custodial parent has some important legal consequences, in addition to the more limited access to the child. Non-custodial parents are very often ordered to pay some amount for the child's care and support to the custodial parent. The exact amount is set by the courts applying state law, which takes into account factors such as the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent's income and obligations, and the number of children.

It is also important to note that physical and legal custody can be separate concepts. A parent may be a non-custodial parent and have limited visitation time with the child, but he or she may still have a legal right to assist in making medical and other decisions for the child.

If you are involved in a custody dispute, these legal terms and concepts can quickly become overwhelming.

Contacting a lawyer to assist you as you work through issues of child custody can be very important to ensuring that your legal rights and the rights of your child are protected.