The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

Primary Custodial Parent

   The primary custodial parent is the parent who is awarded the majority of the parenting time with a child following a divorce or separation.  Not all child-custody arrangements have a primary custodial parent.  In “true” joint custody arrangements for example, both parents are considered to be custodial parents, and both parents have the same rights and responsibilities to the child(ren).
   Does the primary custodial parent have more legal custody than the non-custodial parent?
   It is important to understand that the term “primary custodial parent” only applies to physical custody, not legal custody.  In this definition, when we refer to primary custody, we are only referring to the physical custody component of child-custody.  It is entirely possible for the non-custodial parent to have equal or even sole legal custody of the child.  While that latter scenario is unlikely, it is in fact possible.
   Which parent is declared the primary custodial parent?
   The most common type of child custody arrangement is for one parent to have physical custody, both parents to have joint legal custody.  This is because family law has evolved to accept the importance of having both parents in their child's lives, but it still must balance that with what is best for the child.
   When a family court hears a child custody case, it must determine who (if anyone) will be named the primary custodial parent.  In doing so, the court will follow the best interest of the child doctrine or “best interest” standard.  Many factors affect which parent will have the majority of the parenting-time with the child.  If one parent works more hours than the other, that may be an important factor.  Other factors that could affect a decision might be if either parent has a substance abuse issue, criminal history, or any other lifestyle factor that might make that parent less qualified to be the primary custodial parent.
   Does the primary custodial parent get child support?
   Child support, or maintenance, is an recurring payment,typically from the non-custodial parent to the primary custodial parent.  The purpose of child support is to equalize the financial responsibility that each parent has toward their children.
   How much child support the primary custodial parent will receive depends on a variety of circumstances.   Resources:
What are the responsibilities of the primary custodial parent after a divorce or separation?
Primary custodial parents benefit from understanding the legalities and responsibilities of having physical custody. This article explains what those legalities and responsibilities are in detail.
Can a primary custodial parent move out-of-state?
Understanding the rights of both the primary custodial parent and the non-custodial parent is extremely important when a move out of state is being considered. This resource explains what should be considered with relocation disputes.
Wikipedia - Child custody
The explanation on Wikipedia for Child Custody delves into who the custodial parent is and what that parent's roles are.
How is child support determined?
The primary custodial parent typically receives child support. This Wikipedia article explains child support in detail.
Child support calculator
Because child support varies by a lot of different factors, it is important to understand what affects the amount the non-custodial parent will be expected to pay. This child support calculator allows you to choose the state you live in, and enter different criteria to get a good idea of the maintenance payment amount.
How Does The Court Decide Who Gets The Children?
This resource helps describes just what a court will look at when making a decision on a child custody case.

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