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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.


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