Skip to main content

Most "Non-Custodial" Parents can still be significantly Involved in their Childrens' Lives

Many parents facing the prospect of a divorce or break-up where children are involved place a great deal of importance on obtaining "sole physical custody" or "joint physical custody" of the child or children. Parents are often devastated to find out that their former significant other is seeking sole physical custody, as if that phrase automatically means that there is an intent to preclude one parent from the child's life. These phrases have unfortunately taken on pop culture definitions that more often than not vary from reality.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If a child lives primarily at one place, usually thought to be about two-thirds of the time or more at the same residence, that child is considered to be in the "sole physical custody" of the parent who shares that address. Usually, children who are living in the sole physical custody of one parent have some sort of "visitation" schedule with the "non-custodial" parent. The details of that visitation schedule, also sometimes called a "parenting plan", are dependent on both parents. For some "non-custodial" parents it is every other weekend, for others it could be two or three days each week.

Even a parenting plan that falls into that two-thirds vs. one-third mold still includes a significant amount of time that the children are with the "non-custodial" parent.

In addition, not having sole physical custody does not mean that a parent cannot be involved in major life decisions involving the child. Or put another way, non-custodial parents are still able to contribute to the major life decisions necessary for their child. The ability to be involved in such decisions is determined by which parent or parents have legal custody of the child. In other words, while the sole physical custodian of the child may decide what clothes your child will wear to school, legal custodians can (and in most cases should) still be involved in decisions such as who the child's doctor will be, whether or not your child will have surgery, and what school the child will attend.

Finally, absent a restraining order or other order of the court to the contrary, all parents have the right to attend their children's public events, such as sporting events, concerts, etc. Most courts do not consider these types of public events the exclusive time of either parent. Although how you interact with the other parent at these events may depend on your ongoing relationship and the appropriateness of said interaction, it is usually still beneficial for a child to know that both parents are there cheering them on, even if separately. While this is not necessarily "quality time" with your child it remains another way non-custodial parents can remain involved in their children's lives.


  1. Hello, I am the editor at This article presents great information that would be very useful for anyone who is going through child custody proceedings to read, because it is easy to understand the anxiety that parents must be feeling when they hear that their former spouses are filing for sole physical custody. Therefore, it is important for parents in this situation to understand that sole physical custody does not mean that they will be cut off from their children's lives. I have posted a teaser of this article along with a link back to your blog on Free Legal Aid. Thanks so much!

  2. Are you kidding me?? In what realm would it be that a parent should not be concerned about sole custody? You get the these spiteful parents who carry out the bitterness of their divorce and do everything to shove the other parent out. Packing the kids up and moving to another state completely henders the other parents ability to be involved. If BOTH parents are sound meaning the parents would have custody removed per the state then why should the other parent be able to take the child away. With divorce rates what they are today someone needs to stand up for our children. There should be no "primary" custodian. 50/50 shared parenting should be awarded every time unless the parent is negligent or abusive and would require intervention. Why should any good parent lose the relationship with their child to a bitter ex? I am a woman, a mother and have never been so sickened in my life by what other women will do and what courts allow. There is a huge biased in our family courts and I pray that I one day make a ripple to evoke change.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the purpose of the Divorce Nisi waiting period?

In Massachusetts the statutory waiting period after a Judgment of Divorce and before the divorce becomes final (or absolute) is called the Nisi period. After a divorce case settles or goes to trial, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This waiting period serves the purpose of allowing parties to change their mind before the divorce becomes final. If the Judgment of Divorce Nisi has issued but not become final yet, and you and your spouse decide you don't want to get divorced, then you can file a Motion to Dismiss and the Judgment will be undone. Although many of my clients who are getting divorced think the idea of getting back together with their ex sounds crazy, I have had cases where this happened. In addition to offering a grace period to change your mind, the Nisi period has three other legal effects: 1. The most obvious effect of the waiting period is that you cannot remarry during the Nisi period, be

Does a Criminal Record affect Child Custody?

If one of the parents in a custody case has a criminal record, the types of crimes on their record could have an effect on their chances of obtaining custody. In custody cases the issue is always going to come down to whether or not the best interests of the child might be affected. In the most extreme case, in which one parent has been convicted of first degree murder of the other parent, the law specifically prohibits visitation with the children until they are of a suitable age to assent. Similarly, but to a less serious degree, in making custody and visitation determinations the court will consider crimes that would cause one to question the fitness of a parent. These types of crimes would obviously include any violent crime convictions which could call into question whether the children would be in danger around a parent who has shown themselves to resort to violence when faced with conflict. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse offenses would call into question a parent&#

What happens after my Divorce Agreement is approved by a Judge?

If you filed a Joint Petition for Divorce in Massachusetts then you will participate in an uncontested divorce hearing and the Judge will then issue Findings of Fact the day of the hearing.  A Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue after thirty (30) days, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Joint Petition for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 120 days after the divorce hearing date. If you filed a Complaint for Divorce  then your case will end either with a trial (if you don't settle) or an uncontested divorce hearing (if you settle).  If you reach an Agreement, then a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and be effective as of the date of the uncontested divorce hearing, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Complaint for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 90 days after the divorce hearing date. Therefore, for 90 - 120 day