The custodial parent is the parent who is granted custody of the child or children in a separation agreement or custody proceeding. Simply put, this is the parent whose home the child spends most of his/her time. This parent often also receives child support payments from the non-custodial parent to care for the child or children.
The term custodial parent is also an essential designation for tax purposes. This is because the custodial parent claims the child as a dependent when filing a tax return. Nonetheless, the custodial parent can allow the non-custodial parent to claim the child through an IRS form or the divorce settlement.
In this post, we answer the question, ‘can both parents be the custodial parent?‘ If you are currently going through a divorce and need help working out a parenting plan, consult a Wilmington Divorce Attorney.
Shared Parenting Time Vs. Having Two Custodial Parents
In most instances, the judge will divide parenting time between the two parents. One parent may have more parenting time, which is called primary physical custody. Or, both parents may have an equal amount of parenting time, otherwise known as joint physical custody. Sometimes, the judge may rule that it is in the child’s best interest to live solely with one parent. The other parent may then be awarded a visitation schedule with certain restrictions. This is called sole physical custody.
As a matter of speaking, the custodial parent may be viewed as the parent with the majority of parenting time. It may also refer to the parent with whom the child lives or who claims the child as a dependent.
When both parents have equal parenting time, they are said to be in shared parenting or joint physical custody. Here, both parents are considered custodial parents, and neither is a non-custodial parent.
Joint physical custody defines a situation where a child lives with both parents for equal or nearly equal amounts of time. In this arrangement, terms such as ‘primary residence,’ ‘visitation,’ and ‘primary custodial parent’ have no legal meaning. They may only be used to determine tax status.
Additionally, the care and lodging of the child are stipulated in a court-ordered parenting plan or schedule.
Merits and Demerits of Joint Physical Custody
In joint physical custody, the child or children have equal contact with both parents. This can make the divorce or separation easier for the children to handle. It can also ease the burden of parenting on each parent. That said, this arrangement could also have some disadvantages such as:
- Parental ill will or noncooperation, in some cases
- It can be expensive to maintain two homes for the children
- The children may get frustrated at being shuffled around.
Where there are two custodial parents, they should try to follow the court-ordered schedule to avoid any conflicts. They should also ensure that their decisions are in line with the best interests of the child. In order to have a successful joint physical custody arrangement, the parties must be able to communicate and cooperate with each other, which is also known as co-parenting.
Get the Help of a Wilmington Divorce Attorney
A parenting plan is a critical factor in every divorce that involves a child or children. You should consider several important factors and ensure you act in the best interest of the child. By working with a Wilmington Divorce Attorney, you ensure that your rights and those of your child are protected.