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What Is Sole Custody of a Child?

Sole custody is a term that refers to one parent having both physical and legal custody of a child. Sole guardianship gives the awarded party full rights to make decisions concerning the child without consulting the other parent first. A father with sole custody can relocate with the kids without seeking the approval of the children's mother.

Sole Custody is Physical and Legal Custody

If a parent is awarded sole custody of a child it means that they get physical and legal rights over the child. This means they are in charge of all of the important decision making that pertains to the child. These decisions include:

  • schooling
  • religion
  • and medical care

Sole custody also means that the child lives with the parent that is awarded custody to. This parent has the right to move the child without the approval of the other parent. Although the parent with sole custody has decision-making rights they can not deny the visitation rights of the other parent.

Depending on what state you live in, in this situation, the parent without custody has visitation or “parenting time” with the child and they have to pay child support to the parent with sole custody. Additionally, they have no power to make decisions in regards to the child’s upbringing.

Despite the fact that sole custody is an option, most states are awarding it less and less in favor of arrangements that increase the role of both parents in the child’s life. Even when sole physical custody is awarded to one parent it is more common to award joint legal custody.

The court will generally reject a request for sole custody in a situation where both parents are deemed to be equally fit but are simply looking to avoid communication with each other. If this is the case, the parents need to work out a way to communicate effectively for the sake of the children.

Unless the child is in danger by being with a parent the court is less likely to grant sole physical and legal custody to one parent.

When Is Sole Custody Awarded?

If a parent has a history of:

  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • child abuse
  • child neglect

they may be deemed an unfit parent by the court. In that situation, the court is more likely to grant sole physical custody to the parent that is more fit to provide adequate care for the child.

Sole Custody and Relocating

In regards to having sole custody of a child and relocating, it may not be as simple as it seems. Although the other parent doesn’t have a say in the matter, the court may put a halt to a relocation if it threatens the visitation rights of the other parent. If the parents have to go to court over a possible relocation the court will usually issue a temporary order that maintains the status quo while the case is underway.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get sole custody of my child?

To get sole custody of a child, prove to the court that it is in your child’s best interest for you to have sole custody. To get to this point, you need to be in a child custody or divorce case.

What is sole physical custody?

Custody is the ability to make major decisions in a child’s life. Physical custody is where the child is day-to-day, also called placement. So, to have sole physical custody means only one parent has time with the child. This is not often given to a parent because it is usually better for the child to have a relationship with both of their parents.

Can a father get full custody?

Yes, a father can get full custody of a child. If the child should be with the father, the court will rule for him to have custody. The court does not prefer mothers over fathers, rather, it prefers what is best for the child.

Can a mother deny a father access?

If a father has custody and placement of a child, the mother cannot deny him access on his scheduled days. If she does, the father can file to enforce the custody order. The only way a mother can keep the child from the father is if the mother has sole physical custody.

How do I file for full custody?

To ask the court for full custody, you need to already be in a child custody case. The case can also be from a paternity or divorce case. During the case, you will tell the court how you think custody and placement should look. At this time, you outline what full custody looks like to you and why you should be the only one with custody.

How does sole custody work?

In sole custody, one party has the full ability to make major decisions in the child’s life. So, it works pretty smoothly because only one parent is needed to make decisions. For example, when deciding where the child will go to school, the parent with custody gets to decide.
As for placement, the day-to-day schedule will look different for everyone. Even in sole custody, parents can still have joint placement.

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