Not every parent is the best choice for custody when it comes to their child’s well-being. In some situations, a court can grant one parent sole custody. How does this occur and what happens after these court decisions are made? We’ll cover some of what custody entails and walk you through the process that results in sole custody being granted.
What is Child Custody?
Custody can be sorted into two different types: physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to who your children live with. It can be joint or sole/primary. If you do not have physical custody more than 50% of the time, you have visitation. Ideally, visitation is established in a plan agreed upon by both parents.
Legal custody refers to who makes important decisions for your children, such as health care, education, and welfare. These decisions can include:
- School or child care
- Religious activities or institutions
- Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
- Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professionals (except in emergency situations)
- Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
- Residence (where the children will live)
What is Sole Custody?
Sole legal custody means that one parent will have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Sole custody means that the noncustodial parent does not have any visitation or custody rights.
How Can a Parent Lose Custody?
The law states judges must give custody according to what is in the “best interest of the child.” In deciding what is best for a child, the court will consider:
- The age of the child.
- The health of the child.
- The emotional ties between the parents and the child.
- The ability of the parents to care for the child.
- Any history of family violence or substance abuse.
- The child’s ties to school, home, and his or her community.
These elements are considered in the initial determination of custody. However, a parent can also lose all forms of custody due to being considered unfit. This situation can arise when there is particularly damaging behavior conducted by one parent that usually falls under one of these categories:
- Child abuse, or a parent loses custody for making false allegations of child abuse.
- Child neglect: this can be failure to see to the child’s health, cleanliness, diet, doctor’s visits, schooling, or inability to properly supervise a child.
- Domestic violence, even if the child is not directly harmed.
- Substance abuse or dependency.
- Issues with mental health.
- Parental alienation or inability to co-parent: these are issues of refusing to follow visitation plans and emotionally manipulating the child against the other parent.
- Working too much, as parents must be active and present in their children’s lives.
What Happens When One Parent is Granted Sole Custody?
Losing custody of a child generally means one parent will now have sole legal custody, and or primary/sole physical custody. In more extreme cases, as with unfit parents, the parent loses both forms of custody and is no longer able to make any decisions regarding important matters in the child’s life.
Visitation may also become limited, supervised, or non-existent. This means even small, day-to-day choices about the child can no longer be made by the unfit parent because of their inability to be present. It is important to note, losing custody does not change the responsibility to pay child support.
Custody can be restored, but the parent must show a “significant change of circumstances” in support of his or her modification request. However, after the judge reviews the request, he must still apply the “best interest” analysis mentioned above.
Matters of custody can be nuanced and complicated. Each circumstance and child is different. If you have questions or concerns about custody and your rights as a parent, contact us at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.