What Is a Custodial Parent?
A custodial parent is a parent who has been awarded sole or primary physical custody of a child by a court of law. This means that the child will live with the custodial parent most of the time, and the other parent will typically have visitation rights or limited physical custody.
Custodial parents are responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, as well as decisions about the child’s education, health care, and overall welfare. Continue reading to learn more about child custody and different issues that may arise.
Physical Custody of a Child
There are two types of custody parents need to be aware of: physical and legal. We’ll look at each one.
When it comes to physical custody of a minor child, there are two main types: joint physical custody and sole physical custody. Joint custody means that both parents share physical custody of the child, while sole custody means that only one parent has physical custody. When a child spends all or most of the time with one parent, that parent is the custodial parent.
This doesn’t mean the other parent is out of the child’s life. Unless there are compelling reasons, a court is unlikely to go to those extremes. Instead, courts award joint physical custody, even if one parent gets slightly more time than the other.
California courts look at many factors when determining physical custody of a minor child, including:
- The child’s health and safety
- The child’s age and stage of development
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- The amount of contact each parent has with the child
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
- Any history of habitual drug or alcohol abuse
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate and make joint decisions
- The child’s wishes, if they are old enough to express them
In extraordinary cases, a court may award sole physical custody to one parent. They might do this because one parent is incarcerated, or it could be because one parent has a history of abuse or neglect. Courts always consider what is in the child’s best interest, which sometimes means granting sole physical custody to one parent.
Legal Custody of a Child
Joint legal custody means that both parents share decision-making authority for the child, while sole legal custody means that one parent has exclusive authority to make decisions for the child. In order for a court to award sole legal custody, there must be evidence that the parents are unable to cooperate or that one parent is unfit to care for the child.
Joint legal custody is typically preferred because it allows both parents to have a say in important decisions regarding their child’s welfare, health, and education. However, there are times when sole legal custody is necessary, such as when one parent is abusive or neglectful.
In some situations, parents may share joint legal custody but not joint physical custody. In these cases, the parents can each make important decisions regarding the child, but the child may live primarily with one parent.
Child Custody Modifications in California
Parents who have been granted custody of their children typically want to keep that arrangement as long as possible. However, there are times when a change of custody might be necessary.
Circumstances that could lead to a court granting a change of custody include:
- One parent is moving out of the state or country
- One parent became incapacitated or incarcerated
- The child expressed a desire to live with the other parent
- The parents agreed to a change in custody
- One parent is unable to meet the child’s needs
The paramount thing a court will consider is whether the custody modification is in the best interest of the child. If a parent opposes the modification, the court must state its reasons for the decision.
Speak With a Beverly Hills Family Law Attorney If You Have Questions Regarding Child Custody
Your child’s well-being matters most. You play a crucial role in their life through both legal and physical custody. Knowing your responsibilities and your rights under both types of custody ensures the best scenario for your child. Explore and protect your parental rights by speaking with a Beverly Hills child custody lawyer who can help guide you through the process and represent your interests in court.
Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Beverly Hills divorce attorneys to discuss your case at (310) 271-6290.