Sole Custody Vs. Joint Custody for Divorcing Dads

Joint or sole child custody for divorced fathers

Understanding How to Divide Child Custody During Divorce

When you're getting a divorce, the idea of sharing child custody with your kids' mother may not seem like a pleasant prospect. Since the relationship between the two of you has already broken down, you probably aren't looking forward to having to stay in contact with her in the years to come. You might also be concerned about how the two of you will share the responsibility of raising your children, the amount of time you will have with your kids, and your ability to work together and resolve any disputes that may come up between the two of you.

One concern dads may have during divorce is whether they will share joint custody of kids or whether one parent will have sole custody. When considering how to make decisions about sole or joint custody, visitation, and other child-related issues, it's important to understand exactly what these terms refer to and how the law in your state addresses these issues.

The Differences Between Legal and Physical Custody

There are usually two separate aspects of child custody, and either of these may be shared by parents or granted solely to one parent. Legal custody describes the right to make decisions about how your kids will be raised, including where they will go to school or church and ensuring that they have the proper medical treatment. In many cases, parents will have equal responsibility for making these decisions, although depending on state laws, all responsibilities or different areas of responsibility may be granted to one parent.

Physical custody, which may also be referred to as physical placement, parenting time, or visitation, addresses when children will stay with each parent. Even if one parent has sole legal custody of children, the other parent will typically have the right to share physical custody and have a reasonable amount of time with their children.

When Is Sole Custody Appropriate?

Under the laws of most states, parents are encouraged to reach an agreement on how to share responsibilities for their children. When creating a parenting agreement, you and your ex can decide how you will work together to make decisions about your children, and you can create a schedule for the time your children will spend with each of you. However, there may be some situations when it may be necessary to grant sole legal or physical custody to one parent.

Sole legal custody in some or all areas of responsibility may be appropriate if one parent had previously been primarily responsible for making decisions about children. For example, if you were the one who usually took your children to doctor's appointments, administered any medications, and addressed other health-related issues, you may be granted sole responsibility for making medical decisions for your kids going forward.

Sole physical custody is somewhat rare, since the laws usually presume that parents should have reasonable time with their kids. However, there are some cases in which denying or restricting parenting time may be appropriate, including in situations involving domestic violence or abuse. A parent may also seek sole physical custody if the other parent's mental health or substance abuse issues would place children at risk. In these cases, a parent will need to provide convincing evidence that their children would be at risk of physical or emotional harm while in the care of the other parent.

If you're looking to secure sole custody of your kids, you'll need to demonstrate to the court why this would be appropriate in your situation, including showing how you took responsibility for caring for your children in the past or offering proof that your ex is a danger to your kids. If your ex is attempting to deny or restrict your custody rights, you'll need to take legal action to make sure you can continue to be closely involved in your children's lives. In these situations, or in any case involving a dispute over child custody, you'll want to work with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you of your options and advocate for your children's best interests.

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