What is Sole Custody?
Sole custody in a divorce is a unique child custody arrangement where only parent is awarded the physical as well as legal custody of the child. Sometimes the sole custody may be granted to a legal guardian (such as grandparents) if both parents are unfit to provide care to the child. The parent with sole custodial rights can unilaterally make long-term as well as everyday decisions on the child’s behalf.
What is Sole Custody Granted?
The family law courts in Orange County will grant sole custody to a parent or legal guardian only in exceptional circumstances, such as:
- The non-custodial parent is physically or mentally incapacitated, is in jail, or is otherwise incapable of contributing to the child’s upbringing and sharing custodial rights and responsibilities.
- The non-custodial parent has given up his or her parental rights out of their choice.
- There is evidence of child abuse, child neglect, or domestic violence against the non-custodial parent.
- Both parents are unwilling or incapable of providing care for the child, in which case the court may grant sole custody to a grandparent, other family members, or another party.
The courts in California cannot use religion, race, gender or disability as factors in determining sole custody.
Sole Physical Custody vs. Sole Legal Custody
It is important to distinguish between sole physical custody and sole legal custody. In many cases, a parent may be awarded sole physical custody, but not sole legal custody of the child.
Sole Physical Custody: In this arrangement, the child physically lives with and under the care of only one parent. Supervised or unsupervised visitation rights may be granted to the other parent if the court determines it is the child’s best interests.
Sole Legal Custody: This is an exceptional arrangement, where only one parent is granted the rights to make important decisions related to the child’s upbringing. In normal circumstances, sole legal custody would only be granted to the parent who also has the sole physical custody.
Relocation and Sole Custody
Even if you have been granted the child’s sole custody in Orange County, it does not automatically give you the right to relocate without permission from the court. If the court has granted visitation rights to the non-custodial parent, your relocation may interfere with those rights. Therefore, if you wish to relocate in this situation, you will have to convince the court that the relocation in the best interest of your child.
Sole Legal Custody – Advantages
- Mitigates the scope for conflict because of reduced communication.
- Decisions for the child can be made faster because only one parent is making them.
- Eliminates the need to track down the other parent if they are unavailable when a critical medical or another decision has to be made.
- Protects the child’s welfare if the other parent is unstable or unfit to make decisions for the child.
- Removes confusion from the equation if the parents hold extremely divergent views on critical issues for the child, such as education and medical care.
Sole Legal Custody – Disadvantages
- From the perspective of the other parent, it can be emotionally devastating to be removed from all involvement with the child.
- Rancor and resentment may endlessly persist from one side.
- The custodial parent may find it hard to make critical decisions independently.
- The child may feel inadequate or emotionally deprived because only one parent is making all the decisions for them.
- The non-custodial parent may gradually become emotionally distant from the child because of a lack of involvement.
Should You Fight for Sole Custody?
When you are going through a heartbreaking divorce, the idea of sole physical and legal custody may appeal to you because you don’t want to have anything to do with your former spouse. However, sole custody, and in particular sole legal custody, is not an arrangement to satisfy your interests but to protect the best interests of your child.
If the other party is a responsible parent, and the only issue is that you both find it hard to collaborate or hold opposing views on child upbringing, the court may not grant sole legal custody to you. Sole legal custody is only a provision for exceptional situations where one parent is incapable, unfit, unavailable, or unwilling to make reasonable decisions for the child’s welfare.
Your child custody lawyer in Orange County may advise you to pursue a case for sole legal custody when:
- The other parent is largely absent from the child’s life, and rarely or never communicates with him or her.
- You and the other parent reside in different geographical regions or time zones, and it is not feasible to make joint decisions at short notice for the child’s sake.
- The other parent has a history of neglect, abuse, violence, substance abuse, or is physically or mentally incapacitated.
A dedicated and compassionate child custody lawyer will help you consider what is best for your child so that you can formulate your legal strategy for custody based on that. If healthy and active co-parenting is possible, and the other party is willing to be a responsible, collaborative parent, perhaps your child deserves the involvement of that parent as well in his or her life.
Choose a Trusted Child Custody Attorney in Orange County
Whether you want to pursue sole physical custody, sole legal custody or another custody arrangement, you need a child custody lawyer in Orange County whom you can trust for the right advice. Your attorney should be prepared to pursue your legal goals in an objective and determined manner, and help you achieve the most effective custody arrangement for your needs. If needed at any stage, your lawyer will also effectively represent you for custody modification order as necessary.