The Primary parent in California is the parent who has more time with the party’s children than does the other parent. However, there are some other effects that come into play when one parent has primary parent status.
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Primary Custodial Parent
The primary custodial parent is the parent who has a child the majority of the time. Unless both parents are awarded physical custody, a child often lives with one parent most of the time. When this happens, that parent is referred to as the custodial parent; the other parent is known as the noncustodial parent and is usually awarded visitation and pays child support.
In a joint custody arrangement, the primary custodial parent is the parent that spends the majority of the time with the child or children. For instance, if one parent has custody of the child during the week and the other parent only has custody on the weekends, the parent who cares for the child during the week is often called the primary custodial parent because they spend more time with the child than the other parent.
Determining the Custodial Parent
When formulating a child custody arrangement, the court will always take into consideration the child’s best interest. This means that the choice of the primary custodial parent is dependent on what would be most beneficial to the child. In addition, and only after the child’s best interests standard have been applied, the court will consider:
- The nature of the parent’s relationship with the child;
- The parent’s physical and mental capacities;
- The parent’s financial background and ability to care for the child; and,
- Any criminal record or history of neglect or abuse.
Changing the Primary Custodial Parent
Over time, there may be changes in circumstances that the court will consider regarding custody. The court may change primary custody due to the fact that a parent’s capabilities and availability has changed; or, that there are benefits that the child can receive by a change in custody.
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