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Definition of Custodial Parent

The custodial parent has physical custody and the primary responsibility of rearing a child following a divorce or separation. It is not unusual, however, for non-custodial parents to be very involved in the parenting of the child (or children) even if the custodial parent has the legal responsibility to provide food, shelter and clothing for the child.

Child custody arrangements are decided by the courts. The courts will evaluate a variety of factors to make their custodial decision, but the overriding factor is what the courts will consider "in the best interest of the child." There are several common custodial arrangements the courts can choose, and they will choose the custodial arrangement which most adequately meets all of the needs of the child.

Becoming the Custodial Parent

To become the custodial parent you must file a petition in court. If you are chosen as the custodial parent, in most situations, you will be eligible to receive child support. The courts will determine child support payments by evaluating the income of both parents and following the laws outlined in each state. Child support can include payment for the following: child care, health insurance, school uniforms, extracurricular activities and recreational activities.

Parents who do not have physical custody of the child are called the noncustodial parent. The amount of time they will spend with their child will be determined by the court. Keep in mind, if at any time the child custody arrangements are no longer in the best interest of the child they can be modified by the court.





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