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Sole Custody Definition

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What Is the Definition of Sole Custody?

Sole custody is a special type of child custody arrangement in which only one parent or person is granted both physical and legal custody of the child. Here, the parent with custody is responsible for the child’s physical needs, as well as making legal decisions on their behalf. This is a very special type of child custody arrangement that is granted in situations such as:

  • The other parent is incapacitated, incarcerated, or unable to assist in terms of child custody.
  • The other parent has a history of spousal or child abuse, domestic violence, or child neglect.
  • Both parents are unable to assume responsibility for the child (in which case another party will need to assume sole custody, such as a grandparent or close relative).

Family laws on sole custody may differ from state to state. Also, the court will need to conduct a thorough analysis of all the factors involved to determine which type of custody is best suited for the child.

How Is Sole Custody different from Full Custody?

Another type of child custody setup that is related to sole custody is full custody. Full custody is very similar to sole custody in many ways. However, it is different in one main respect- in a full custody arrangement, one parent may have physical and legal custody, but the other parent is granted some visitation rights. This is different from sole custody, in which the other parent has no visitation rights at all.

Thus, "full custody" implies that one parent has custody of the child for the majority of the time, with some visitation allowed. "Sole custody" implies that only one parent is allowed to take care of the child and make decisions for them at all times.

What Are Some Alternatives to Sole Custody?

In some cases, sole custody can be converted to full custody. For instance, the non-custodial parent may apply for some visitation rights if they can demonstrate changes such as good behavior or conduct.

Another alternative is for the parents to agree to shared custody or joint custody. This is where the parents are granted more equal custody rights. This type of adjustment is considered a major leap from sole custody and needs to be evaluated with special care.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Sole Custody Laws?

Sole custody definitions may vary slightly by region. You may need to hire a child custody attorney in your area if you have any concerns or legal questions involving sole custody. A qualified attorney will be able to help you when it comes to filing requests, researching laws, and other tasks. Also, your lawyer can represent you if you need to appear in a family law court or for other meetings and hearings.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-21-2014 11:53 AM PDT

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