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What Is Full Custody of a Child?

Full custody refers to a type of child custody arrangement wherein only one parent assumes all the responsibilities for caring for and raising the child. It is sometimes called by various names, such as sole custody or other names depending on the jurisdiction.

Full custody is often granted as a result of a divorce or legal separation trial, or in a separate proceeding devoted specifically for child custody matters. The parent who is granted full custody is often called the "custodial parent".

What Responsibilities Are Involved in Full Custody?

With full custody, only one parent is entrusted with responsibilities of both physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to those periods of time in which the child is staying or living with the parent. The parent would then be responsible for matters such as food, clothing, shelter, educational matters, and other expenses. Legal custody refers to the parent’s responsibilities of making various legal decisions on behalf of the child.

In some cases, "full custody" can also entail some visitation rights. For instance, the other parent (called the "non-custodial parent") may have some short periods of visitation with the child. Here, they may only be assuming physical custody for a short while, but the other parent still retains legal custody of the child. Full custody can be much more demanding than other forms of custody like shared or split custody, since the custodial parent is basically assuming all responsibility for the child.

When Is Full Custody Awarded?

Courts may require full custody in certain situations, such as:

  • One parent has become ill or otherwise incapacitated
  • The other parent is not considered fit to raise a child
  • The other parent has been incarcerated or has a negative criminal record
  • There has been a history of abuse or neglect by the parent

Of course, each child custody situation is carefully analyzed so that the child’s best interests are served. This requires much deliberation and discussion between all the parties involved.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Legal Issues?

Child custody is a serious matter and generally requires the assistance and representation of a qualified family law attorney. You may wish to hire a lawyer in your area if you need any assistance at all with child custody issues or if you have any questions or concerns. Your attorney can provide you with the information and guidance that is needed to help you resolve the matters.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-26-2015 01:55 PM PST

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