Contact Us for a Free Consultation 818-528-3471

Sole Custody

How Can You Get Sole Legal Child Custody in California?

Child custody in a California divorce involves many parental rights and responsibilities. During a marriage, the biological parents share these rights equally, but control of the children will have to be divided when you get divorced.

Custody issues are typically resolved through a mutual agreement between the parents, but not always. If there is no agreement, it will go through a process called a child custody dispute, which will end in a couple of different ways.

How Can You Get Sole Legal Child Custody in California?

You will share custody, or the court could award all the authority to one parent. During some custody disputes, parents will ask the court to award them sole legal custody. So, what exactly does that mean?

Only one parent can have access to their child in sole legal custody, meaning the child lives with them full-time. It also means that the parent has all the decision-making authority. The other parent will not have any legal right to access their child, even for visitation.

However, you must understand that getting sole legal custody is uncommon. In other words, it's pretty tricky as California family court judges are much more likely to assign joint custody unless you can show them valid evidence on why that is not in the child's best interest.  

Legal custody refers to the right a parent has to make decisions on behalf of their child., such as religion, schooling, and healthcare.

Physical custody refers to a parent's right to have time with their child, including visitation and sleepovers. Getting sole legal custody is not easy, but it's possible. Let's review this topic further below.

One Parent Making Decisions on Child's Well-Being

California Family Code 3006 says, “Sole legal custody means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.”

Often, the term “sole legal custody” is misunderstood by parents. There is confusion over some standard family law terms, such as the following:

  • legal custody;
  • physical custody;
  • sole physical custody;
  • joint physical custody.

Some find it impossible to believe that just one parent would have all the decision-making authority over their kids.

Sole Legal Child Custody in California

In reality, as noted, a sole legal custody award is uncommon, but you need to understand under what situation it would be appropriate.

To confuse some matters further, the family court can award joint legal custody on some issues and sole legal custody of others.

Sole legal custody is sometimes awarded when there are special needs children. For example, suppose one parent was the primary person taking care of their child's therapy, counseling, and medical treatments.

Suppose they were a stay-at-home parent dedicated to their child's unique needs. In that case, the court could award them sole legal custody in a divorce.

In this situation, awarding sole legal custody to the experienced and equipped parent to handle their child's best interest is appropriate. Still, not all cases are as clear-cut as this one.

What About Extreme Situations?

Some extreme situations could justify sole legal custody, such as the following:

  • history of domestic violence by one parent;
  • child abuse incidents by one parent;
  • one parent has a drug or alcohol addiction;
  • there is a history of child neglect or abandonment;
  • one parent is incarcerated and unable to provide care;
  • one parent is relocating a substantial distance;
  • one parent suffers from a mental illness.

Other situations could make one parent unfit to make decisions or even be involved in the decision-making process related to child custody.

Notably, you must understand that essentially dissolving the other parent's parental rights is a serious matter that will require serious evidence. It's much more than just a dislike for the other parent or that you feel you are better.

You must show the court that your child may be in danger of harm. Judges generally believe consistent contact with both parents is in the child's best interest. You will have to prove otherwise, not just verbal allegations but actual proof.

Every situation is unique, and not all sole legal custody awards have to be permanent. This is why you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to review the case details and decide whether seeking sole legal custody is appropriate for your case.

Best Interest of the Child Standard

As noted, in California family law courts, all decisions about minor children are made based on the best interest of the child standard. It's not about you or the other parent.

Under these standard and routine guidelines, every outcome is reviewed based on what decision would serve the children's best long-term interest and well-being. Nothing is more important. It's not about you.

Notably, the judge could care less about what you think or want. They have one goal: to figure out which type of arrangement will work out best for the kids, even if the parents object. So, under this standard, the common factors that the judge considers include the following:

  • the age of the child;
  • child's relationship with both parents;
  • parent's ability to care for their children;
  • financial issues related to a child's care;
  • living conditions of both parents;
  • any history of abuse or neglect.

As noted, California family courts have long believed that a child's best interests are served when they can have a loving relationship with both parents when possible.

You must convince them otherwise, which is often challenging, but obtaining sole legal child custody is possible.

Best Interest of the Child Standard

Again, any parent who wants sole custody must show the court that their child's best interest can only be served if they have a relationship with one parent rather than two.

While it's uncommon for family courts to award sole legal custody in California, you might have a chance. It's not impossible.

Before seeking this uncommon option from the court, remember that the discussion above concerns the child's best interest. In some cases, it might be appropriate, but the details matter.  

If you have questions about obtaining sole child custody in California, contact us by phone or use the contact form for a free case consultation. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce attorneys, and we provide legal representation across Southern California.

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

Furman & Zavatsky
17200 Ventura Blvd., #105
Encino, CA 91316
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri: 09:00am - 05:00pm