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Sole Custody: How To Decide What Is Best For You And Your Child

by Theresa Hoffman

Parents can choose from several custody variations, and they all have their good and not-so-good aspects. Sole custody may be the simplest type of child custody for many families.

Parental Rights and Sole Custody 

Many parents get the mistaken idea that sole custody means one parent is in total charge of the child. However, both parents will continue to parent equally with sole custody. That is because sole custody usually refers to physical and not legal custody. Unless the non-custodial parent has been stripped of their parental rights, both parents will continue to share legal custody of the child regardless of where the child primarily resides. Below is a sample of the decisions that should be made by both parents when sole custody is the choice:

  • Where the child should attend school and what type of education they should receive.
  • Power to make decisions about healthcare and medical issues affecting the child.
  • What type of religion the child should follow along with any type of religious training or education? 
  • What to do about disciplinary issues like punishment, curfews, and more.

As you can see, a child may live with only one parent while relying on both parents when something major needs to be addressed. 

Why Choose Sole Custody?

In many cases, the parent that remains in the family home is the ideal parent for holding child custody. Divorce has the potential to disrupt a child to a great degree. Remaining in the same home, neighborhood, and school can be a comfort to a child and judges tend to agree with that assessment when having to make the custody decision. Younger children may fare better, as least as far as judges are concerned, with the mother. In most cases, however, the parent chosen to have sole custody is the one who exhibits superior parenting behavior. As you can imagine, when the parents disagree about sole custody, it can create a stressful situation. 

Sole Custody and Visitation

When one parent is awarded sole custody of a child, the other parent may be awarded visitation. Visitation schedules allow the child to spend time with the non-custodial parent and are based on several factors. The child's school schedule heavily influences visitation with the child spending holidays, weekends, and summers with the non-custodial parents. The goal is that the non-custodial parent sees the child about half of the time in a given week or year. 

Consult a child custody lawyer to learn more.