Sole custody can be applied in both a physical and a legal sense. Sole physical custody means that the child only lives with one parent, while sole legal custody means that only one parent can make decisions for the child. These may be given out together, essentially cutting the other parent out of the child’s life, or they can be split up. For instance, both parents may get a say in major decisions (legal custody) while the child only lives with one parent (physical custody).
In any case, if you’re heading toward a divorce as a parent, you may be wondering just how common this is. Do you actually have a chance of not seeing your child? Is the court going to pick a parent and leave the other without much involvement?
The shift toward joint custody
There is good news. Sole custody used to be much more common than it is today. While it does still happen, modern courts encourage joint custody in most cases.
A lot of reasons have driven this change, but perhaps the biggest is the fact that studies found children adjusted and developed much better when they had two parents involved. It was not necessarily important for those parents to be married. They just both needed to spend time with the child.
As a result, courts realized it was in the best interests of children to use joint or shared custody whenever possible. They will only usually revert to sole custody when there is a major reason to do so that may mean it’s actually worse for the child. A clear example is when there is evidence of abuse by one parent, for instance, or when that parent has a dangerous living situation that would put the child at risk.
If both parents want to be involved and are living similar lives, though, the court does not want to prevent either one from seeing the child. Even if your ex asks for sole custody, they have to show why it is warranted in order for the court to agree. This is just one reason why you need to be well aware of all of your legal options.