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Obtaining Sole Custody



In a divorce, custody decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of the child. Most courts and many state laws favor joint custody after a divorce. You need to have a strong reason if you are interested in obtaining sole custody.

The Two Kinds of Sole Custody

If you are seeking sole custody of your child, it is important to know that there are two kinds of sole custody. The first is called sole physical custody. If you have sole physical custody, your child lives with you. You are responsible for the daily care of your child. The other parent may have visitation rights.

The second is sole legal custody. If you have sole legal custody, you make all the decisions for your child by yourself.

If you have sole custody, you usually have both physical and legal custody of your child. It is possible to have sole physical custody but share legal custody with the other parent. The child lives with you, but you and your spouse decide together how to raise your child.  Learn more about why women win most custody battles.

When Can You Seek Sole Custody?

You may seek sole custody if your spouse cannot be an effective parent. Courts award sole custody for a number of reasons, including :

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Mental health issues
  • Money issues
  • Stability of the home

You or your attorney will explain your reasons for obtaining sole custody in a letter to the court called a petition. A petition asks the court to make a legal decision for you. You will need to prove your reasons to the court. Your spouse will be notified of your petition and can go to court to disagree with your reasons.

What Are the Advantages of Obtaining Sole Custody?

If you are concerned about your child's safety or have trouble working with your spouse, there are several advantages to sole custody:

  • It allows you to protect your child from danger, a bad home or an unfit parent.
  • It can help you and your child feel stable and connected to a single home.
  • It can be less expensive for both parents, because you will not need to have two full homes for your child.
  • It can improve the parents' relationship. Joint custody requires constant communication between both parents. If you and your spouse still are hurt or angry, this can be difficult and stressful. Sole custody reduces the time you will spend with each other.