In California, courts generally seek to allow parents to have custody of their own children. In some circumstances, both parents may share custody of their children. In other situations, only one parent may be granted custody of the children. When one parent has custody of his or her children, he or she is known as the custodial parent. The parent who is not granted custody of the children is known as the noncustodial parent.
As a noncustodial parent, a person may not have rights to make decisions about his or her children's lifestyles. For example, the parent may not be included in the decision-making process about which schools to send the children to and what medical treatment the children should receive. Additionally, a noncustodial parent may not have the right to have his or her children live in his or her household; custodial parents generally have physical custody rights and legal custody rights to their children.
Noncustodial parents are often required to pay child support for the maintenance and well-being of their offspring. This child support is generally court ordered and a mandate that the noncustodial parent must follow. They may also have rights to visitation with their children; unlike physical custody, visitation allows a parent to spend short periods of time with his or her children that conform to the directives given by the family law court.
Noncustodial parents are still parents to their children. For reasons considered by their family law courts, noncustodial parents may have fewer rights with regard to their kids than parents adjudicated to be custodial parents. Depending upon their circumstances, however, many noncustodial parents still have opportunities to have meaningful contact with their kids and are able to maintain their parent-child relationships.