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What is Sole Custody and What Circumstances Justify This Custodial Arrangement in California?

In California, many parents will end up having joint custody of their children.  Other arrangements include one parent having sole physical custody, but sharing legal custody with the other parent or one parent having sole physical and legal custody. When making a custody determination, the court is always considering what will be in the best interests of the children. If you are trying to learn what type of custody you should attempt to get, be sure to speak with an experienced attorney.

What is Sole Physical Custody?

If a parent has sole physical custody then the child will live with that parent full-time. The custodial parent is able to make certain determinations regarding the care of the child such as the child’s daily routine. However, if the custodial parent is sharing legal custody with the other parent, then there are many important decisions that the custodial parent cannot make unilaterally.

What is Sole Legal Custody?

If a parent is granted sole legal and physical custody of a child, then that parent is able to make important decisions about the child without considering the opinion of the parent who does not have legal custody. The parent with legal custody has the ability to determine what type of education, religious instruction, and medical treatments the child receives, along with the child’s living arrangements. It does not matter if the parent who does not have legal custody objects to the religious upbringing of the child because this decision is entirely up to the parent with sole legal custody.

When Will a Court Grant Sole Custody?

Courts favor custody orders that include the children having frequent contact with both parents, and where the parents both take part in the decisions related to the children’s upbringing. With that said, the courts will stray from this if doing so is in the best interests of the children.

Joint physical custody often means the child will spend a significant amount of time with both parents. This might mean a 50-50 split in time, but it could also mean something like 35% or 40% of the time is spent with one parent and 60-65% with the other parent. There is no clear line on the percentage of time a parent must have a child in order to have joint rather than sole physical custody. Even when a parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent will often get parenting time or visitation. There will have to be a good reason to grant a parent sole physical custody.

Courts are highly reluctant to grant sole legal custody. If a parent wishes to file for sole legal custody, they should have a very good reason for doing so, and evidence other than their own accusations to back up their request. If a parent has committed domestic abuse, abuses drugs or alcohol, or has abandoned the child, then sole custody might be granted to the other parent. However, even in some cases where, for instance, a parent has a history of substance abuse, a court might find an arrangement that is designed to protect the child, but that does not grant sole custody to another parent.

It is important to remember that false allegations against a parent are taken very seriously by California courts. If you believe that it is necessary to file for sole custody, be sure to speak to an experienced family law attorney in order to understand what it is that you are requesting and whether you have a strong enough case for filing such a request.

Call Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP for Your Free Custody Consultation

Child custody arrangements are complicated and are highly emotionally charged. It is crucial to find a representative who is knowledgeable in the field of family law to guide you through the process.

The attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP understand how important these cases are to our clients. Call us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.