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Home » Divorce » Child Custody » Sole Custody

Sole Legal Custody Vs. Physical Custody

Child custody matters are among the most emotionally fraught issues in divorce. While most custody cases result in joint custody, in some instances, sole custody is awarded based on the child’s needs and safety.

A parent with sole custody of a child has exclusive legal and physical custody rights regarding that child. Sole legal custody means the parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning all matters relating to the child’s well-being such as:

  • Medical care
  • Education
  • Elective surgery
  • Tattoos

On the other hand, sole physical custody is when a child lives with one parent. The other parent, the noncustodial parent, is typically granted a reasonable visitation schedule, except for instances when the court determines that visitations are not in the best interests of the child.

When Is Sole Custody Awarded?

Generally speaking, courts are moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent to allow both parents to play a significant role in their children’s lives. When courts do award sole physical custody, the parents will often share joint legal custody, and the noncustodial parent has visitation rights.

Sole custody arrangements are typically limited to situations where one parent is determined to be unfit or incapable of having responsibility over the child. Sole custody may be granted if the other parent is shown to have:

  • A history of violent behavior
  • Placed the child in a dangerous situation
  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Inappropriate contact with minors
  • Mental instability

An experienced child custody lawyer can ensure that your custody arrangements and visitation agreements are fair, protecting your and your child’s best interests.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Sole Custody?

The main benefit of being awarded sole custody is that you do not need to consult with the other parent when making decisions about the child’s welfare such as their medical attention or schooling. There is also less of a potential for scheduling conflicts in sole custody cases, compared to joint custody arrangements.

A possible drawback to sole custody arrangements is relocation restrictions. Despite having sole legal custody, a parent may not have the right to relocate without the court’s authorization. The court may need to address situations where relocation violates the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights.

Learn More About Your Rights Today

Backed with decades of experience, S. Roger Rombro and Melinda A. Manley at Rombro & Manley LLP in Manhattan Beach, California, can represent you in these difficult circumstances. Call 310-545-1900 or use our online form to learn more about how our legal team can help.