What is a Noncustodial Parent?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 June 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Custody, in terms of parental rights, refers to legally granted control and responsibility for a child. When a person has custody, she is generally responsible for the majority of care for a child. The noncustodial parent is one who plays a secondary role and generally lacks the power to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and care.

Custody is often determined by courts. There are a number of things that may be considered to determine whether a person should be deemed a noncustodial parent. Factors such as a history of neglecting the child, alcohol or drug abuse, and lack of income may cause the court to grant custody to one parent instead of the other.

Laws determining custody do not generally specify that preference be given to mothers. However, statistics show that in many countries, noncustodial parents tend to be men more commonly than women. There is often a great deal of debate about this. If a man believes he has been denied custody solely based on the grounds of his sex, he should address this with the court if he is interested in changing his custody status.


The terms of custody are not always permanent. A noncustodial parent can often seek a change in the custodial terms at a later date. For example, a mother may be denied custody of her children until she successfully completes a drug treatment program and is re-evaluated by a social service professional. Although during treatment she may be the noncustodial parent, upon completion of the program, she may go back to court and appeal to regain her custodial rights.

Although a person is a noncustodial parent, this does not mean that he is alleviated of all responsibility for his child. He may still be required to pay child support. He may also have visitation rights and other responsibilities, such as transporting the child to and from certain events. These are not always determined by the custodial parent. Additionally, unless revoked by a court order, a noncustodial parent generally has the right to access a child’s educational and medical records.

It is common for a court to determine the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent. In these instances, since visitation is a court order, the custodial parent generally does not have the authority to change the terms or to refuse them if they are explicitly outlined. The noncustodial parent also lacks the authority to refuse to adhere to court orders.



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