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This is Todd Burnham, the Founding Partner of Burnham Law, and an experienced family law lawyer with a superb record. This blog goes over some of the reasons one parent would get Sole Custody.
Sole Custody refers to a condition ordered by the courts during and after a family court case. The parent with Sole Custody will have the right to make all of the decisions of importance in the child or children’s lives without consulting the other parent. These are decisions on subjects like the child’s medical care, education, religious upbringing, and moral development. The parent with Sole Custody will also have physical custody of the child. This means the child lives with one parent, no overnights with the other parent, in fact, the other parent will have only very limited visitation rights with the child, and sometimes, no visitations at all.
Sole Custody is an extreme case, and it’s only going to happen as a result of extreme behaviours or situations. Some examples are:
Now, none of these issues are guaranteed to lead to Sole Custody. Just because you have something in your past that is bad does not mean that you’re a bad parent. If you’ve had mental health issues in the past or a past suicide attempt, the are things you can do to keep partial custody of your child.
If you can demonstrate that you’ve attended therapy or that you are on corrective medication, then you’ve effectively neutralized that bad fact. It is important that you continue to do those demonstrably good actions to treat any issues you have that might pose a risk to the children. If you can demonstrate that you are not a current risk to your children, it is unlikely that Sole Custody will be granted to the other parent.
This is where effective legal counsel comes in. Your lawyer will help you craft your case so you can make the best demonstration of yourself to the court. Having a current drug, alcohol or mental health issue will certainly give the court the ability to restrict parenting time, including utilizing Sole Custody. However, a good lawyer will know when a good time to push your case is, for example, it might be better to wait to push the case until you’ve gone and done some more rehabilitation. That way you can demonstrate to the court that you’ve rectified any issues and you are no longer presenting a health or emotional risk to your child. In that case, when you’re not a current risk, Sole Custody is very rare.
Often with Sole Custody, there are other factors at play. For example, older children get more of a voice in choosing where they are and which parent they interact with. The courts will start to consider the opinions of the child as they get older and more mature. There are certainly situations where the child or children just don’t want to be with one of the parents. This could be due to the behaviour of the parent, being emotionally distant, belittling or worse, abusive.
These issues don’t happen in a vacuum. Parents are coming into these cases with baggage. And it’s important to extricate that baggage from these pieces and make sure that you’re fostering love and affection for the other party.
Typically, Sole Custody cases are decided based on imminent harm and endangerment. Those are the times and the pieces in which you’re going to have one party gain Sole Custody, not necessarily permanently, but certainly in the short term. Often, that’s where temporary orders come into place. The next step is that experts are going to get involved: childhood family investigators, or parental responsibility evaluators. That’s when you have third parties investigating the best interests of the child or children.