A custodial parent is the primary parent who shares a home with the child. Typically, this means that a court of law has given primary legal or physical custody to one of the parents, the parents have reached an informal agreement, or there is only one parent involved in the child’s life. However, it may be difficult to understand the law surrounding child custody. Custodial parents should consider the following legal tips to understand the responsibilities of having legal and physical custody of a child:
1. Stick to a Visitation Schedule
Custodial parents should develop a parenting plan with the non-custodial parent to ensure there's a set visitation schedule. Additionally, a court may impose a convenient visitation schedule in the absence of a parenting plan. If there needs to be a change to the visitation schedule, a custodial parent should give the non-custodial parent as much advance notice as possible.
2. Track Child Support Payments
In a child custody matter, a custodial parent should record child support payments received and those that have not been received because a custodial parent may need to request back child support payments in court and proof of payments received can be a requirement in court.
3. Consult the Non-Custodial Parent on Important Matters
In instances, where parents have joint custody of a child, the non-custodial parent should be consulted on all meaningful issues affecting a child. Custodial parents should discuss what matters are important and how they’ll be handled going forward in the parenting plan.
4. Best Interests of the Child
The best interests of the child should be considered in child custody matters for custodial parents as well as non-custodial parents. Best interests of the child refers to parents placing the needs of their child above all else. The child’s need to live in as stable of a home environment as possible is paramount to the success to a joint custody arrangement.
5. Inform the Co-Parent Before Leaving the State With the Child
If a parent decides to relocate with a child, the non-custodial parent must be consulted prior to the relocation. Additionally, a non-custodial parent may initiate a change in child custody as a result of the custodial parents' relocation. A court will consider several factors prior to agreeing to a relocation. On the other hand, if a custodial parent would like to take a vacation with the child, the court may stipulate in the court order that the non-custodial parent should still be informed.
6. Consult the Non-Custodial Parent Before Incurring Major Expenses
If a court requires a non-custodial parent to cover half of extraordinary medical expenses or child care expenses, a custodial parent should consult a non-custodial parent before incurring the expenses to be certain the non-custodial parent can cover the costs at that time.