Skip to main content

What does "Primary Residential Parent" with joint custody mean?

Phoenix, AZ |

I have joint custody of my kids. My ex is the "primary residential parent". We did that since she stayed in the current school district. Now, she is thinking about moving and will not be in the children's current school district. She states, since she is the primary residential parent that only she decides on which school the children will attend. I have no say. Is that correct even though we have joint custody?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


The designation of one parent as the primary residential parent does not necessarily give that parent the right to unilaterally make educational decisions for the children. You need to look for the provision in your Parenting Plan that addresses the children's education to see where the decision-making authority lies. It is possible, with Joint Custody, for one parent to have "final" decision-making authority. On the other hand, it is possible for neither parent's rights to be superior to the other's. If neither of you has final decision-making authority, then the decisions regarding the children's educations must be made jointly.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. The author is licensed to practice law only in Arizona.


Joint legal custody means that the parties stand in equal positions when it comes to decision-making in three specific areas: education, medical and religion. Occasionally, the court will designate one parent as the final decision maker in one (or all three) of these areas. If the court does not, neither parent stands in a superior decision-making role. Designation of "primary residential parent" pertains to where the children reside more of the time (physical custody rather than legal custody). As discussed by the attorney above, the designation of primary residential parent does not determine who makes legal decisions. The decision to change schools is an important decision pertaining to joint legal custody (in one of those three major areas), and you need to review your decree to see whether "final decision-making authority" is designated. You should consult with an attorney to help you sort through the specifics of your situation.

This answer does not constitute an attorney-client relationship and is intended to provide general information only. Please contact an attorney in your state for specific advice.

Child custody topics

Recommended articles about Child custody

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer