What Is a Custodial Parent?

Posted On July 15, 2021 Custody

In a typical Washington State divorce, the parents of a child will either create their own custody agreement and divide residential time, or a Court will decide for them. The parent known as the custodial parent will have the child the majority of the time. 

The most common custody arrangement in Washington is for one parent to have sole or primary physical custody (custodial parent), and both parents have joint legal custody. Read on to the learn more about what is a custodial parent in Washington State and if you have more questions, contact an experienced Spokane child custody lawyer.  

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Physical Custody

A parent’s right to have their child live in their home and the responsibility for their physical care. Physical custody gives a parent control over a child’s everyday activities and needs. 

Legal Custody

The authority and responsibility to make major life decisions for the child. For instance, regarding education, religious practice, medical care, etc. 

One parent can have sole physical custody and share legal custody, or vice versa, share both, or none at all. If a custodial parent has sole legal and physical custody, the other parent has no authority over significant decisions or where the child lives unless it will compromise their visitation rights. 

A Custodial Parent’s Rights and Responsibilities

The custodial parent has every day responsibilities to their child as their primary caretaker, such as: 

  • Providing basic necessities (e.g., clothing, food, shelter, etc.)
  • Making sure the child has good personal hygiene daily. 
  • Ensuring the child attends school, medical appointments, and church (if applicable)
  • Helping with schoolwork
  • Proving transportation to and from extracurricular activities
  • Sticking to the visitation schedule and giving advance notice to the noncustodial parent if there needs to be a change.
  • Providing any other necessities. 

The custodial parent should also keep track of child support payments in case the noncustodial parent owes arrears. If legal custody is shared, the custodial parent is responsible for consulting them on any meaningful issues. If the custodial parent would like to relocate with their child, there are relocation laws that can impact their ability to do so. The procedural rules differ based on if the move being planned is within the child’s same school district or somewhere outside of the child’s school district. A relocation attorney will be the best option for a custodial parent who would like to move so that they can understand their legal options and potential implications. 

How Do I Become a Custodial Parent?

Each parent has a fundamental constitutional right to care for, have custody of, and make decisions for their child. If parents divorce, child custody can be negotiated and agreed upon by the parents, but ultimately the court will decide how custody will serve the child’s best interests. A variety of factors will be considered, such as which parent was the primary caretaker, whether one parent has more or less time to care for the child, and the child’s wishes (if they are at least age 12), but often the most relevant factor is the child’s relationship with each parent. 

Do You Need a Lawyer for Help With Custodial Parent Rights?

If so, speak to an experienced custody attorney in a free consultation. Our team at Twyford Law Office will fight to get you the access to your child that you deserve.

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