The Ins and Outs of Seeking Sole Custody in California

The decision to seek sole custody can be an incredibly difficult one. Many factors must be considered when pursuing this path. Whether asking for sole physical or legal custody (or both), understanding the process and potential outcomes can make the situation less confusing and overwhelming.

If you’re looking for legal guidance for a child custody matter, please contact our Los Angeles team at Claery & Hammond, LLP by calling (310) 817-6904.

Defining Sole Custody in California

When it comes to child custody in California, several arrangements are available. A parent may be granted sole custody, where the court awards them full decision-making responsibility over their child’s physical, emotional, and educational well-being. They may also provide the primary residence for the child.

In contrast is joint custody. This means that instead of one parent having exclusive rights and responsibilities for their child, both parents retain equal decision-making rights. Additionally, the child lives with one parent for a similar amount of time as they do the other.

Overview of the Types of Child Custody

As mentioned earlier, parents may have decision-making responsibilities and provide a residence for their child. These are two separate matters in child custody cases, and California classifies them as legal and physical custody.

Legal custody allows parents to make long-term decisions concerning their child’s upbringing. They may decide which school their child attends, what religion they will practice, and what medical care they will receive.

Physical custody determines the actual residence of the child. It also includes decision-making authority for day-to-day activities, such as bedtime, meals, and extracurriculars, when the child is under their care.

Each type of custody can be awarded as sole, meaning it is held by one parent only. Similarly, each can be granted as joint and shared by both parents equally. In some cases, one type of custody may be awarded as sole and the other type as joint. For instance, a parent may have sole physical custody, but both have joint legal custody.

Requesting Sole Custody of a Child

In child custody cases, California courts prefer granting joint custody, allowing them equal input and involvement in their child’s life. Still, in certain situations, it may be necessary for one parent to be granted sole custody.

A court may consider awarding sole custody to one parent when extenuating circumstances are present, such as the following:

  • Substance abuse by one parent,
  • Domestic violence committed against a parent,
  • Abuse or neglect of the child, or
  • Other conduct making one parent unfit.

The court will make its custody determination based on what is in the child's best interest. This includes considering factors such as the physical and emotional well-being of the child.

After considering all relevant variables, a ruling can be made, awarding sole or joint custody. Note that if sole physical custody is granted, the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights allowing them consistent contact with their child. Thus, the parent may not be completely blocked from seeing their child. However, if deemed necessary due to risk factors, the parent’s visitation rights may be limited or restricted.

Requirements for Filing for Sole Custody

When requesting a sole custody arrangement, the parent must provide evidence to support their arguments. Making allegations against the other parent is not enough to warrant such a request, and exaggerated claims should be avoided, as doing so will not help the case.

Although courts are open to awarding sole custody in some situations, they still require a compelling case demonstrating why the arrangement would best serve the child. For the court to make determinations that are in the child’s best interest, the requesting parent must present legally acceptable and substantial justification.

Retaining Legal Representation for a Sole Custody Request

Requesting sole custody of a child is an important and complicated process. Often, it can be challenging for the parent to present their case to the court.

Hiring an experienced attorney knowledgeable in family law can be invaluable during the process. The lawyer can help develop arguments demonstrating that sole custody is the best arrangement for the child. Moreover, an adept attorney will know how to collect and compile evidence that strengthens the requesting parent’s arguments.

Schedule a Consultation Today

The issue of child custody is complex and can impact the lives of the child and parent. When deciding between granting sole and joint custody, the court will make a determination based on what’s in the child’s best interest. Sole custody may be granted if one parent is found unfit or poses a risk to the child’s well-being.

If you are considering asking for sole custody, you must have concrete evidence to support your claims. Additionally, having an experienced attorney on your side will be beneficial as you go through this challenging process.

To speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers at Claery & Hammond, LLP, please contact us at (310) 817-6904.