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Many people wonder whether or not they can even get full custody, or if it’s even possible in the first place. 

What Does Full Custody Mean?

Colloquially, when people say that they have full custody (also referred to as sole custody), they’re typically referring to an arrangement where the children live with them 100% the time, and the other parent’s interactions with the child are minimal or non-existent. However, in most states, full physical custody refers to an arrangement where the child lives with one parent but the other parent has some level of minimal parent time. Under the aforementioned arrangement, the child would not live at the non-custodial parent’s home, but they may visit the parent regularly, and even spend a night at the non-custodial parent’s house occasionally. Most commonly this is every other weekend from Friday night to Sunday night. Some states also allow for a midweek visit in the evening as well. Full physical custody is separate from full legal custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make important decisions on the child’s behalf.  These important decisions may include medical care, where the child will go to school, religious affiliation and membership, and other important decisions. With two responsible parents who want to have a relationship with their child, it would be very unusual for one parent to be legally prevented from having a relationship with the child.

When There’s Proven Abuse

Sadly, most courts are not proactive when it comes to preventing abuse and neglect where it hasn’t already occurred. Courts tend to be reactive and make decisions based on past events, not speculation of future events. Even if you have valid concerns that your ex may abuse your child in the future, the courts will not typically act if the abuse has not occurred. Furthermore, proving the abuse may be difficult. Parents typically need to prove that there has been abusive or neglectful behavior before the court will intervene. If you suspect your ex may be abusing or neglecting your child, it’s important to document everything your child says, while refraining from questioning them too intensely about the event as young children’s memories are easily contaminated. It may also be a good idea to have your child evaluated by an unbiased professional, such as a pediatrician or child psychologist. In the event, your child discloses any form of abuse it’s important to take action and speak with the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. If you have any questions about who to talk to or what to do, contact and speak with an attorney who can provide additional information and advice on how to proceed and protect your child.

Unknown Father

If you don’t know who the biological father of your child is, you’re likely able to have full physical and legal custody of your child. Before the child’s biological father will be able to have any rights to the child, or any financial obligation to support the child, paternity will need to be established. This usually happens through a DNA test. Simply signing the birth certificate is not necessarily enough to establish paternity. There are several laws and factors to help determine or establish paternity. If a man finds out that he is not the biological father of the child when he thought he was, he may or may not have any rights to the child regarding custody. In a situation where a couple is married and living together, all children are presumed to be of the married couple. If there are questions regarding paternity, the presumed father would need to take a paternity test to prove that he’s not the biological father.

When a Parent Moves Away

When one parent moves a significant distance away, 50/50 joint custody isn’t usually a possibility. Some couples choose to have arrangements where the child lives with one parent during the school year and lives with the other parent during summer. In this case, a court would need to evaluate the family’s unique circumstances and determine a custody arrangement that’s in the best interests of the children involved. When determining what’s in the best interests of the child, the court will be looking at factors such as which parent was the primary caregiver of the children, which parent can offer the child the most stable life, and, depending on the age of the child the court may consider the child’s wishes. They will also consider which parent is moving and why they’re moving.

When a Parent’s Rights are Terminated

Though it doesn’t happen often, a parent’s rights can be terminated. When a parent’s rights are terminated, the parent no longer has any right to the child. This means that they have no custodial rights referring to both legal and physical custody. f your ex’s parental rights were terminated, you would be able to move the child wherever you wanted, assuming that you don’t share custody with someone else. A parent’s rights aren’t typically terminated unless there’s another person who is willing to adopt the child in the biological parent’s stead. And you will share custody rights with whoever adopts the child. In extraordinary circumstances, a judge may terminate a parent’s rights even if nobody is willing to adopt the child in the parent’s place. In that case, a parent would have full physical custody and full legal custody, and the parent whose rights were terminated would not have any rights to the child. They would not have any financial obligations to the child either, however.

When Parents Don’t Wish to Be Involved

If a parent doesn’t want to be involved in the child’s life, they could technically just disappear from it without much consequence–assuming they’re current on any child support they’ve been ordered to pay. Though some states have minimum parent-time requirements, it may be difficult for a court to enforce those. And many parents are all too happy to have the child all to themselves. These parents usually feel that, though it’s in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents, it may be damaging for them to have a relationship with a parent who doesn’t want them around in the first place. Though it would be more difficult for a parent to show up and get 50/50 custody immediately after being voluntarily absent for years, the parent would generally be able to get some custody, however minimal. The court would generally require a reunification plan to help re-introduce the parent into the child’s life and gradually increase contact and parent time with the formerly absent parent. The aforementioned assumes paternity is already established.

When You’re Filing for Divorce

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, and you’re wondering what your rights are, contact CoilLaw today to get started with an initial consultation. Understanding your rights and getting advice from an expert that’s tailored to your specific situation will boost your chances of getting the best possible outcome. If you’re ready to learn about your rights, contact CoilLaw today.



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