In California and across the United States, approximately 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Many of these marriages involve children. The term "custodial parent" is typically defined by the parent who has physical custody of their children for the majority of the time after a divorce. This doesn't mean that the other parent isn't involved in their children's lives, but it does mean that the custodial parent typically bears more responsibility of child-rearing. Even if parents have agreed on a co-parenting situation, the custodial parent will be assigned custody for the majority of the time.
There are two different types of child custody: legal and physical. Many parents have joint legal custody, which means that health, religious and school decisions should be made together, but the custodial parent will have the children living with him or her for more than 50 percent of the time. Often, a parent who has the children for most of the time automatically assumes they are the custodial parent. The courts may require that the parent file for sole custody in order for this status to be official.