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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Divorce & Joint Custody Laws in Kentucky

References

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How to Reverse a Sole Custody Order in Missouri

Provided the existence of certain conditions, a parent can be successful in reversing a sole custody order in the state of Missouri. An important first step in the process is understanding the difference between legal and physical custody, and that modifications of existing arrangements require a showing of new facts coming to light after the original order. Notice must be provided to the other parent, and if the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, the judge will rule in favor of the modification if it is in the best interest of the child.

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.

Joint Child Custody: How to Create Your Child Visitation Schedule

You have the power to negotiate a visitation schedule that works well for you. If you and your ex-partner agree to share joint child custody, you can generally create a child custody and visitation schedule with or without a court order. When you enter into the custody agreement, you are both bound by its terms. However, the agreement cannot legally be enforced until the court approves it and issues a child custody order.

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