Sole custody is one of many orders a court can issue when granting parents custody. Courts award parents legal and physical custody.
If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, this typically means the other spouse does not have any decision-making authority. A parent who has sole legal custody is the only person who has the legal authority to make major decisions on behalf of the parties’ child. These types of decisions include education, religion, and health care. Remember, it is important to distinguish legal custody from physical custody. In many instances, parents will share legal custody but not share physical custody.
It is often easier to make major decisions when there is only one parent legally responsible for each choice. This may, in some cases, result in greater consistency for the child. In a family where one parent is absent or not involved in the child’s life, it would be necessary for the parent who is involved in the child’s live to be able to make major or critical decisions without having to consult with the other parent. At the same time, it can be unclear about what decisions are “major” or “critical.” The prudent parent who may have sole legal custody should, at least, make every attempt to keep the other parent informed about a child education, medical needs, and religious involvement. In general, sole legal custody is ideal in situations where one parent is not available to make key decisions involving the child’s education, medical needs or religious involvement.
If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, also known as primary custody, the child only lives with that parent. When one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other parent is awarded visitation and must pay child support.
In summary, legal custody is the authority to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, from educational choices, to medical needs to religious upbringing. Physical custody is the parental home where the child resides. Either type of custody can be sole custody or joint. For example, courts often award both parents legal custody, which means they share decision-making responsibility, while one has physical custody.
In one of our most recent cases, a Mother was granted sole custody in an ex parte hearing. Father would not disclose his address and Mother did not know where her children were living while in Father’s care. Additionally, Father did pick-up the children and it was later discovered that he did not have a driver’s license.
Our office filed an Ex Parte request seeking an emergency order for sole custody to be awarded to Mother. A later hearing was vacated when Father agreed to supervised visitation and to seek counseling.
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