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What is a Non-Custodial Parent?

A non-custodial parent is defined as a parent who does not have primary legal and/or physical custody of their child. This situation usually arises after a separation or divorce, where one parent will maintain custody of a child instead of sharing joint custody.

There are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody pertains to where the child will physically live. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the responsibility to make decisions about a child’s life regarding education, religion, health care, and other matters. In most instances, the non-custodial parent refers to the person that does not have physical custody of the child. It is also important to keep in mind that in most instances, a parent may maintain legal custody of a child without having physical custody.

The non-custodial parent generally has visitation rights set by the court. Child visitation arrangements are determined by the court on a case-by-case basis. The visitation rights are established based on several factors including the location of the parents, whether there has been evidence of abuse or neglect by a parent, and the schedules of the parents. Therefore, some non-custodial parents may only be able to see their children during the day under supervision, while others may be able to claim physical custody of the child every weekend. 

Key Takeaways

  • The non-custodial parent commonly refers to the parent that does not have primary physical custody of a child, but it can also apply to the parent without legal custody of a child.
  • In cases where a parent does not have physical custody of the child, they can still participate in decision-making for the child if their legal custody has not been revoked.
  • Non-custodial parents may still be able to see their children depending on the visitation rights set by the court.

Rights of Non-Custodial Parents

Non-custodial parents often worry that they won’t be able to spend time with their child. They may not be aware that although they do not have primary custody of the child, they still have certain rights. Typically, a non-custodial parent is still allowed to build and maintain a relationship with their child. Although these rights vary from state to state, here are a few laws that help protect the rights of non-custodial parents:

  1. Records Access - As long as a judge has not explicitly forbidden them from doing so, non-custodial parents are able to have access to their child’s school, medical, and dental records. If the custodial parent is not willing to share this information, the non-custodial parent can issue a request for the records.
  2. Visitation - Unless there is an extenuating circumstance, the non-custodial parent is entitled to some sort of visitation with their child. If the parent has a history of domestic violence or mental health issues, the visits may be supervised by a social worker or other adult. 
  3. Relocation - If the custodial parent wants to move to a different location, he or she is required to receive permission from the court to relocate. If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the move, the judge’s approval may not be granted. If a custodial parent moves without authorization and against the non-custodial parent’s wishes, he or she may be subject to fines or even jail time. 

Bottom Line

Child custody matters can be extremely difficult to manage. If you are in the midst of a child custody disagreement, the right thing to do is seek the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney as soon as possible. Your counsel will help you understand your rights as a non-custodial parent or represent your interests as a custodial parent.

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