When Is Sole Custody In A Child's Best Interests?

When Is Sole Custody In A Child’s Best Interests?

by Aug 28, 2019Child Custody

Most often, in cases of a divorce involving children, parents (or the court) will decide on joint child custody. Under certain circumstances, however, awarding sole custody to one parent may be in a child’s best interests. But to be awarded sole custody, a parent will have to prove to a judge that their ex-spouse poses a severe and ongoing threat to the safety and wellbeing of their child.

What Does Having Sole Custody Mean?

When one parent is awarded sole custody of their child, it means they have full control over the physical, legal, and medical decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. This includes complete control over things like:

  • A child’s religion
  • Where the child goes to school
  • What type of medical care the child will receive
  • The overall environment the child will be raised in

A parent with sole custody gets to make these decisions without having to consult with or get input from their child’s other parent. However, if a parent with sole custody wants to relocate out of state (or the country), they must still notify the courts and get permission. Even without custody, the other parent will likely have some form of court-ordered visitation rights. 

Ignoring those rights by moving out of state would violate the court order and could mean a lot of trouble for a parent with sole custody.

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How Does A Parent Get Sole Custody?

Legally alienating one parent from their children is a decision that should not be taken lightly. The courts have very high requirements of proof that must be met before deciding to award one parent sole custody of a child.

The most common reason sole custody is granted is to prevent harm to a child because one parent is physically and/or sexually abusive. Other reasons a court would consider sole custody include drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, and severe psychological or physical handicaps.

The parent petitioning for sole custody will need to show irrefutable evidence of why the child’s other parent is unfit or a danger to their child. Even when sole custody is granted, many judges will still grant some visitation rights (like supervised visits, for example) to the parent being denied custody. Only in the most severe cases will both custody and visitation rights be denied to one parent.

Working With Your Attorney

If you are considering petitioning the court to get sole custody of your child, you’ll likely need a lot of help from an experienced family law attorney. A good attorney will know exactly which types of evidence to collect to prove your child’s other parent is unfit or a danger to your children.

Your attorney may also recommend hiring a private investigator if they feel it’s necessary to help collect information and evidence pertinent to your case. Rarely is one parent willing to relinquish all custody and visitation rights voluntarily, so you should be prepared for what may become a contentious legal fight.

To learn more about petitioning for sole custody, or to speak with an attorney about starting the process, please contact our office today.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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