What are Custodial Rights?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Grandparents may petition for child custody.
Grandparents may petition for child custody.

Custodial rights are rights determined by a court during divorce proceedings when decisions are made about which parent should care for the children. Courts use information including arguments from attorneys, testimony from mediators, and other materials to assign custodial rights to one or both parents. They can be periodically adjusted and updated to address changes that may occur as children grow up, parents find new jobs or are forced to move, and in response to other life events.

A parent who has physical custody rights is known as the custodial parent.
A parent who has physical custody rights is known as the custodial parent.

Typically, one parent is given primary custody, sometimes known as residence. The child spends the majority of the time at this parent's house and this parent's custodial rights also include the obligation to assume primary caregiving for the child. The other parent may be assigned visitation rights and asked to pay child support to help the custodial parent. Visitation rights can range from overnight or weekend stays at the non-custodial parent's home to supervised visits in public, or other avenues for interaction with the child depending on the court ruling.

Custodial rights may be periodically adjusted and updated by courts to address changes that occur as children grow up.
Custodial rights may be periodically adjusted and updated by courts to address changes that occur as children grow up.

Determining custodial rights is a challenging process. Sometimes parents and children work with a mediator to reach an agreement they think is appropriate and present the agreement in court for approval. This eliminates a lot of work for the court in addition to providing an amicable solution to questions about custody and child care. In other cases, parents may litigate for custodial rights and the dispute can turn sour if the parents do not agree on what is best for the child.

Custodial parents have ultimate control and primary influence in how their children are raised.
Custodial parents have ultimate control and primary influence in how their children are raised.

As children grow older, their views may be increasingly considered when evaluating the question of where they should live. Other factors can include where a child is going to school, involvement in after school activities, and other issues that might make one parent's household more convenient than the other's. If changes need to be made to the child custody agreement, the couple may be able to work out an agreement with a mediator and send it to a judge to approve, or they may need to go back into court to discuss the matter.

Custodial parents are responsible for disciplining children.
Custodial parents are responsible for disciplining children.

There may be situations where a parent is deemed a danger to a child and is not given any custodial rights, or is given very limited rights, such as periodic supervised visitations. Courts are legally and ethically required to take any steps they feel are appropriate to protect the welfare of a child. This can include denying custodial rights if this action is deemed appropriate. Cases where this is common include divorces where domestic violence has been involved and one parent has taken out a restraining order against the other.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon343279

Can you refuse to let the father see the kid if they don't pay child support?

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    • Grandparents may petition for child custody.
      By: Edler von Rabenstein
      Grandparents may petition for child custody.
    • A parent who has physical custody rights is known as the custodial parent.
      By: Pictures news
      A parent who has physical custody rights is known as the custodial parent.
    • Custodial rights may be periodically adjusted and updated by courts to address changes that occur as children grow up.
      By: inesbazdar
      Custodial rights may be periodically adjusted and updated by courts to address changes that occur as children grow up.
    • Custodial parents have ultimate control and primary influence in how their children are raised.
      By: Serhiy Kobyakov
      Custodial parents have ultimate control and primary influence in how their children are raised.
    • Custodial parents are responsible for disciplining children.
      By: sneksy13
      Custodial parents are responsible for disciplining children.
    • Custodial parents are in charge of making sure children receive proper nutrition.
      By: ryanking999
      Custodial parents are in charge of making sure children receive proper nutrition.
    • Custodial parents are responsible for a child's education.
      By: xiaofoto
      Custodial parents are responsible for a child's education.
    • In some cases, parents may sign over custodial rights to grandparents.
      By: Ivonne Wierink
      In some cases, parents may sign over custodial rights to grandparents.