What Is the Definition of Residential Custodial Parent?

A residential custodial parent is a parent who has sole physical custody of his child as ruled by a court. In these situations, the other parent does not have shared or joint custody over the child. The child lives with the residential custodial parent the majority of the time. Most states have two different types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody involves major decision-making while the parent with physical custody is the parent the child lives with.

The non-residential parent still has visitation with the child. Children often visit with one parent every weekend or every other weekend and sometimes one weeknight. The weeknight visitation generally does not include overnight stays but does include dinner. Some states are now calling visitation "parenting time." Courts grant custodial or residential parent rights to the mother seven times out of 10.

Not all children have a residential custodial parent, as some parents have shared custody of their child. Most of these arrangements do not split custody 50/50, though the arrangements do come relatively close. In order for shared custody to work, the parents of the child need to maintain a relatively amicable relationship to be able to communicate with each other about their child.