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Who is a custodial parent?

In North Carolina, when parents go through a divorce, there are a number of child custody structures that can be used to shape the family’s relationships after the parents’ split. In many cases, one parent is considered the custodial parent, especially when they have physical custody of their child most of the time. This can be the case even when the other parent remains actively involved in their child’s life and the two work together as co-parents.

Child custody laws vary in sometimes unexpected ways. In general, the legal determination of who is a custodial parent is made by a family court whether during a divorce or during official custody proceedings for parents who were never married. A single parent who has always cared for their child alone without the other parent may not be considered custodial in the eyes of the law until they make an official filing for child custody. In other cases, both parents may be considered custodial; this is when both parents have true joint physical custody and 50/50 time sharing with their children.

In general, custodial parents have their children for more time, even when the non-custodial parent has a significant amount of visitation time. While being a custodial parent means more hard work with the children, it can also mean heavy involvement in rewarding tasks like providing guidance, nurturing children and supporting them through tough times with school or friends. Most custodial parents are also eligible to receive child support according to the guidelines of the state.

In order to be officially considered a custodial parent under the law, a family court will need to make this determination. A family law attorney may help divorcing parents or those struggling with custody issues to reach a resolution. A lawyer may work to provide strong representation for their client seeking sole custody in family court.