Can I Seek Sole Custody of My Child?

A father and mother each have their daughter by one hand. It seems as if they're pulling her to their respective side.

Allowing Such a Request

Determining custody of a child in California can be difficult given the sensitive nature of the case. The emotional tension can increase depending on what each parent is seeking in the agreement. One such request some parents consider making is one for sole custody of the child. How does sole custody work in California?

Knowing the Types of Custody

When determining whether you can seek sole custody of a child, it is important to understand the types of custody in California and how they may relate to your request. Physical custody refers to where a child resides and which parent supervises them, whereas legal custody refers to a custodian’s rights and responsibilities to make decisions on behalf of the child pertaining to areas such as healthcare, education, and religious activity.

The California Family Code has provisions that describe both joint and sole custody. Sole custody is held by one parent, whereas joint custody is shared by both parents.

California Preference

The California Family Code establishes a preference for awarding joint custody rather than other scenarios. This means that both parents would end up sharing the responsibility for a child’s welfare-related decisions and would share significant periods of time with physical custody (often on a 50/50 or 60/40 basis). When both parents request an award of joint custody, the court presumes that this arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Indeed, this is clearly the preferred choice in most scenarios.

Possible Scenarios

Should you choose to request sole custody, the court will be prepared to award custody to either you or your spouse based on the standard of meeting the best interest of the child. It would be wise to come prepared with evidence that argues your ability to meet your child’s best interests, as well as your concerns about the other parent’s ability to do so.

Seeking sole custody of your child does not mean that you and you alone have access to the child and the other parent cannot see them or talk with them. Sole physical custody grants you the primary responsibility for housing and supervising the child while the other parent is granted a set timeshare (often referred to as “visitation,” a term that is losing favor due to perceived negative connotations surrounding its use), with how much time granted to the non-custodial parent depending on the unique circumstances of each case.

Sole legal custody, while not as commonly requested, would grant a parent sole decision-making power over a child’s health, education, and welfare, and the other parent would not have any ability to make such decisions without agreement from the parent with legal custody. It is rare to have both sole physical and sole legal custody, although scenarios where one parent is a potential threat to a child’s wellbeing might warrant such an arrangement. Also note that, even when a parent lacks legal custody, more often than not the parent who does have sole legal custody is required to notify the other parent of intended decisions in these categories and engage them in the decision-making process, the sole legal custody essentially giving them tie-breaking authority when agreement is impossible to achieve.

Do You Need Help from a Calabasas Attorney?

Custody cases can be tricky to navigate, which is why it is important to enlist the help of an attorney to work alongside you. At Feinberg & Waller, APC, we understand the various emotions that often accompany difficult custody cases, which is why we are here to help you.

To schedule a consultation with our certified family law specialists, call us at (866) 452-3644 or visit us online.

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