What Is the Difference Between Custodial Parent & Primary Physical Custody?

By Mary Jane Freeman

During your divorce, the court awards physical custody -- which determines where your child resides -- to either you, your spouse or both of you. If the court awards physical custody to only one of you, or your child lives with one parent most of the time, that parent will be known as your child's custodial parent, which also is described as having primary physical custody. The terms custodial parent and primary physical custody usually describe the same type of custody arrangement.

Types of Custody

Custody comes in two forms -- legal and physical -- although terminology varies by state. A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions about a child's upbringing, including religious training and schooling. Physical custody, on the other hand, speaks to the parent's right to provide a home for the child. In general, one parent may be granted sole legal and physical custody; either or both forms of custody may be shared between parents.

Parents with Physical Custody

Unless both parents are awarded physical custody, a child often lives with one parent most of the time. When this happens, that parent is referred to as the custodial parent; the other parent is known as the noncustodial parent and is usually awarded visitation and pays child support. The custodial parent is often described as having primary physical custody.

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What Does Sole Custody Mean for the Other Parent?
 

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What are the Child Custody Rights of the Non Custodial Parent in Ohio?

Understanding the rights of a noncustodial parent in Ohio can be important for the initial allocation of physical and legal custody, as well as for any subsequent modifications. The noncustodial -- or nonresidential parent -- is usually awarded parenting time, which can follow the standard Ohio parenting schedule, or it can be adjusted on the basis of relevant factors, which the judge deems to be in the child's best interest.

What Is the Meaning of Primary Custodian?

When the word primary is used in connection with custody, it usually relates to physical custody – which parent your children will live with after your divorce. The primary parent or custodian has possession of the children the majority of the time, but different states use various terms for dealing with this legal concept.

Child Custody Law in Utah

Utah places a strong emphasis on both parents having meaningful contact with their children following a divorce. To that end, the law sets a minimum visitation requirement as part of most custody arrangements. Agreements between parents are encouraged and will be supported by the court so long as they promote the child's best interests. Utah courts retain the authority to modify an existing order if conditions change and may find a parent in contempt if an order is not followed.

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