A divorce is a strenuous time for any couple breaking their marriage. It becomes more complicated when kids are involved. Both parents need to amicably decide who gets the sole physical custody of the children. Though, many times the parents cannot reach a consensual decision among themselves. At such times, the court intervention is sought to determine the custody arrangement as both parents want their children’s sole physical custody. However, before filing for sole physical custody or contesting in court against the other parent, the parents should understand sole physical custody in detail, its advantages, and disadvantages.
What Is Sole Physical Custody?
The state’s child custody law determines which parent gets the custody of the child or children. After considering various aspects, the family court judge does the division of care of the child or children. The court determines the primary custodial parent, who will be responsible for providing care for the child or children daily. Mostly the court gives shared custody of the child or children for their best care.
In some cases, the court gives sole physical custody to a single parent. Generally, the reasons for sole physical custody are when the other parent is unfit or incapable of taking care of the child or children. This means the primary custodial parent has exclusive legal and physical custody of the child or children. In sole physical custody, the child/children live with one parent or the primary custodial parent most of the time. Though the sole physical custody is given to one parent, the other parent is still allowed limited visitation rights. However, the visitation right is much more limited than shared legal custody or shared physical custody arrangement.
Examples of Sole Physical Custody
Few examples of sole physical custody are:
- Sole physical custody to mother – The mother is the primary custodian of the child/children; however, both decide about the child/children’s upbringing, education, etc. The child lives with the mother most of the time, but the father has generous visitation rights. The child/children can spend weekends or other holidays with the father.
- Sole physical custody to father – The father is the primary custodian of the child/children; however, both parents decide about the child/children’s upbringing, education, etc. The child/children live with the father most of the time, but the mother has ample visitation rights.
- Sole physical custody with one parent with limited or no visitation rights for the other parent – In some cases, one parent is found incapable or unfit to take care of the child/children. The court feels they might negatively influence the child/children due to various reasons such as substance abuse, criminal behavior, drug addiction, or physical abuse. In such cases, one parent gets the child/children’s sole physical and legal custody rights, and the other parent has very limited or no visitation or legal rights.
When Should Parents Have Sole Custody Arrangements?
The parents should have sole physical custody arrangement when:
- One parent travels extensively for work or has a hectic work schedule, making it difficult for them to take care of the child/children
- A child needs a primary residence for education or well-being
- The houses of both parents are located in different cities or far away from each other
- One parent has substance abuse or mental issues
- When one parent has a history of neglect or abuse toward the child
- Both parents agree sole physical custody is best for the child/children
Advantages of Sole Physical Custody
Sole physical custody has many advantages such as:
- The child/children get a stable home or live at the same place without having to travel between the two homes
- The child/children have a routine or schedule similar to the one they had before their parents’ separation— no change of schools or friends and thus minimum disruption in their lives.
- A predictable and stable schedule can be agreed upon, which ensures everyone knows what is going on
- The non-custodial parent has generous visitation rights, ensuring the child/children have a close relationship with both parents
- Less interaction between parents, who may have had a bitter divorce
Disadvantages of Sole Physical Custody
Few disadvantages of sole physical custody are:
- The child or children don’t spend quality time with both parents
- The non-custodial parent doesn’t get enough time with the child/children. He/she may feel like a visitor rather than an important part of the child/children’s lives
- The parent who gets sole physical custody is perceived as a “better parent”
Visitation Rights for Non-custodial Parent
With the child/children’s sole physical custody to one parent, the other parent is granted visitation rights. The visitation rights are the exclusive time the non-custodial parents spend with the children. It could be alternate weekends, every weekend, major holidays, a certain number of weeks of summer holidays, or a midweek visit. The arrangement is mutually decided by the parents or through the court. To maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship, both parents should abide by the visitation schedule. This will minimize the children’s adverse effects and help them adjust to the new family dynamics.
Divorce or separation is a complicated legal matter for any couple. It becomes more complex when deciding the custody of the child/children. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of sole physical custody can help the parents choose what is in their child/children’s best interest.