Can I Get Sole Physical and Legal Custody of My Child?
It’s natural for a parent to want what is best for their child. Sometimes, that means limiting the role the other parent plays in the child’s life.
Courts in Pennsylvania and around the country typically want a child to have a strong relationship with both parents. During a contested divorce or separation of unmarried parents, most courts will award shared physical custody, giving both parents equal time with their child, or one parent primary and the other parent partial physical custody. However, if you want sole physical and legal custody of your child, you must have a good reason for the request and solid evidence to back up your argument.
At Scaringi Law, we have extensive experience in helping parents in complex child custody cases. When necessary, we take immediate action to protect a child in the short term and work toward a long-term custody resolution.
Reasons to Ask for Sole Custody
As angry as you might be with the other parent, getting revenge or punishing them by seeking sole custody is not the answer. Damaging the relationship between your child and the other parent won’t just hurt the other parent. You and your child will be wounded as well.
If your child’s other parent is a true danger to your child, seeking sole custody puts the well-being of your child first.
Reasons a parent might seek sole custody include the following conditions involving the other parent that put the child at risk of harm:
- The parent has recently committed domestic violence
- The parent resides with a person who recently committed domestic violence against the parent
- The parent is currently suffering from severe substance abuse
- The parent has enrolled in inpatient substance abuse treatment
- The parent has recently committed violent criminal conduct
- The parents has been incarcerated
- The parent’s home or community isn’t physically safe for your child
- The parent has neglected or abandoned the child
- The parent is currently suffering from a severe mental health episode
- The parent is voluntarily admitted or involuntarily committed to a mental health facility
Keep in mind that if you prove your case to the judge, they may still grant the other parent visitation or supervised visitation. Terminating all parental rights is only done in extreme circumstances.
Types of Child Custody
Child custody in Pennsylvania is divided into two categories, physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives. The types of physical custody include the following:
- Shared: Each parent is allowed to take physical custody of the child and spend roughly equal time with the child.
- Primary: The child spends the majority (more than half) of their time with one parent. The other parent may get partial or supervised custody.
- Partial: This custody describes the parent who spends less than a majority of time with the child.
- Supervised: An agency or adult named by the court monitors the interaction between a parent and the child.
- Sole: One parent has physical custody all the time.
Legal custody is the right to make decisions for the child such as medical care, education, and religious upbringing. The types of legal custody include the following:
- Shared: Both parents have the right to make major decisions for the child.
- Sole: One party makes all major decisions for the child.
The court has numerous custody options. For example, one parent might have sole physical custody but shared legal custody.
Considerations in Custody Determinations
Petitioning for sole custody requires a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. Our attorneys at Scaringi Law fully understand every nuance of custody law and how to best position and argue your side before the court. The judge must be convinced that sole custody is in the best interests of the child.
The court considers the following factors when awarding custody in the best interests of the child:
- The physical and mental condition of the parents
- Any present and past abuse committed by the parents or a member of their household
- Each parent’s history of drug and alcohol use or abuse
- Each parent’s criminal history
- How each parent performed their parental duties for the child
- Which parent is more likely to attend to the child’s physical, developmental, emotional, and educational needs
- The stability and continuity in the child's education, family life, and community life
- The availability of extended family
- The child's sibling relationships
- The child’s preference (depending on the child's maturity)
The court will also evaluate any attempts of one parent to alienate the child from the other. If the judge sees the request for sole custody as a means to come between the child and the other parent (if no danger is proven), sole custody will not be granted.
Fight for Your Child’s Best Interests
If limiting your child’s contact with the other parent is in their best interests, an accomplished attorney from Scaringi Law can succinctly present the evidence to back up that belief.
Start your custody journey with a free consultation. Schedule an appointment by calling (717) 775-7195 or reaching out through our secure online form.