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Why would sole physical custody be awarded?

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Sole physical custody used to be more popular than it is today, with kids often going to their mother and their father getting to see them through visitation or similar means. Today, though, joint physical custody has become far more common, as Courts strive to keep both parents involved with the kids.

So, if the standard tends to be awarding joint custody, why would a Court revert to sole custody? Why would they cut one parent out, perhaps just leaving him or her with supervised visitation rights?

The answer is generally that the second parent is seen as unfit. The Court will expect a great deal of evidence to back up this claim. Things that could make the parent unfit include:

  • A history of serious alcohol abuse that goes far beyond social drinking.
  • The use of illegal drugs and other such substances.
  • A history of abuse between the parent and the child. Abuse can take many forms and could be physical, emotional, or sexual.
  • A documented mental illness that means the parent cannot care for the child or may be a danger to that child. The parent may also not be able to care for himself or herself.
  • A prison sentence, especially when that parent will be incarcerated for a long time.
  • Allegations of domestic violence within the home. This could target either the child, the other parent or both.

The ramifications of awarding sole physical custody are significant, and it could change the relationship between that child and the parent forever. The best interests of the child must always be considered first. It's very important for both parents to know all of their legal rights if sole custody seems likely.

Source: Self Growth, "Are You Thinking About Trying To Get Sole Custody Of Your Children?," Annie Parron, accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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