The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

Non Custodial Parent




What is a non custodial parent?

A non-custodial parent is a parent who does not have primary physical custody of their child or children.  Therefore, the majority of the time the children are not living with the non custodial parent but rather the custodial parent.


Does a non custodial parent have parental rights?

Yes.  If you are designated by the court as the non custodial parent you are still a central part of your child’s life and how he or she develops.  


What is the legal difference between a non custodial parent and a custodial parent?

The two types of custody are legal and physical custody.  Legal custody relates to the right of a parent to make significant decisions regarding a child’s welfare and development.  Physical custody refers to with whom the child resides.  Since the non custodial parent has their children the least amount of the time the custodial parent is said to have primary physical custody.   


How does visitation relate to the non custodial parent?

As the children do not live with the non custodial parent most of the time the court establishes a visitation arrangement.  The arranged time decided by the court, that a child spends with his or her non custodial parent following a divorce or separation is referred to as a child visitation agreement.    A custodial parent is also referred to, legally, as a managing conservator and therefore, has the right to choose where a child resides.   These rights are known or is what is commonly referred to as custody.  The non custodial parent or possessory conservator has the right to have time with their child and know at any given time the location of their child.  Such rights are commonly referred to as “possession” or “access and visitation.”



Are non custodial parents worse parents than custodial parents?

No.  There are numerous reasons for being designated the non custodial parent.  Probably the most common reason is geography.  Often divorced parents live too far apart to allow for equal time with their children.  Therefore, a visitation arrangement is established such as the children visiting with the non custodial parent every other weekend, some holidays, vacations, and during the summer.   Therefore, even though both parents in a divorce might be excellent parents one parent may be designated the non custodial parent due to the issue of distance.  


Most family courts when determining custody arrangements consider what is in the best interests of the children.  There has begun to be a shift as research has shown the importance of both parents being involved and the courts awarding custody to both parents.  Nonetheless, many family courts still lean toward the belief that the primary caregiver during the marriage should continue be the primary caregiver following a divorce. Due to the courts’ continuing to hold onto this viewpoint regarding custody for mothers and fathers, seventy percent of child custody cases are still awarded in favor of the mother having primary custody. Twenty percent of the time joint custody is awarded between fathers and mothers. Statistics on family law show that fathers are awarded sole custody less than ten percent of the time.


Rights of the Non-Residential Parent
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