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If you are in the midst of a divorce and custody case, you might be wondering about whether you might be able to get full custody of your child. Most of the time, both parents will share custody of their children after a divorce, but other times, one parent or the other is awarded full custody. Parents might not realize all of the responsibility that goes along with full custody, however. Read on to find out more about it.


Why Would Someone Get Full Custody of a Child?

Most of the time, judges like to see both parents actively involved with their child. In most cases, this results in parents being awarded joint legal and physical custody. What that means is that both parents are legally responsible for their child. They both decide together what school the child goes to, they can both attend parent/teacher meetings, both can take the child to routine doctor’s appointments, and both can sign permission slips. Joint physical custody means that the child lives with both parents.

There are a few circumstances that might come up that warrant one parent getting full legal and physical custody of their child. They include

  • Abandonment. If one parent abandons the child and is not interested in having any custody at all, the other parent might receive full custody. Note that this does not mean that the noncustodial parent has no financial responsibility. They will likely still need to pay child support.
  • Child abuse. If one parent is or was abusive or neglectful to the child, they might not be able to get custody. In some cases, they will be awarded supervised visitation, and in other cases, there will be no visitation allowed.
  • Domestic abuse. If one parent was abusive toward the other parent or someone else in the household, the child might not be safe with them. In this case, the non-abusive parent might get full custody.
  • Untreated mental illness. If one parent has severe mental illness that is not treated or treatable, the other parent might receive full custody.
  • Untreated substance addiction. In the same respect, if one parent is addicted to substances, the other might get full custody. This would be in the situation where the first parent was not in a recovery program of some sort.


The Responsibilities of Having Full Custody

There are several responsibilities that a custodial parent has when it comes to not only their child but also their ex-spouse or partner. Here are some of them.

  • Meeting the child’s needs. Obviously, you will be the one most responsible for meeting your child’s needs if you have full custody. This means that you will need to ensure that your child has a safe place to live, enough food to eat, that they are able to get to school, that they have appropriate clothing, and all of the other tangible and intangible things that a child needs to grow up healthy and strong. The noncustodial parent might be financially responsible for some of these things, but you will be the one largely providing them with or without child support payments.
  • Supporting a visitation schedule. Your child might have visitation with his or her other parent. This means that you will need to make sure that your child is available during those times. The visitation might be ordered by specific times (every other weekend and every Tuesday evening) or it might be left up to you to decide. Acknowledge that in most cases, children do best when they have a relationship with both parents and proceed accordingly.
  • Keeping track of child support payments. If your ex has been ordered to pay child support, it is your responsibility to make sure they are coming in regularly. Document any times that child support does not arrive so you have a record to refer to if you need to go to court to request back pay.
  • Keeping your ex in the loop. While you have full custody of your child, it is important to remember that your child belongs to his or her other parent, too. If there is a major event or issue in your child’s life, it is usually best to let your ex know. For example, if your child needs surgery, his or her other parent might want to be there with you in the waiting room. This does not apply, of course, if a judge has ruled that the other parent is unfit or if there is some other extenuating circumstance.
  • Letting your ex know about moves. Your ex will usually have the right to know where his or her child is living, so if you move, it is important to keep him or her updated. Depending on your custody agreement, you might need his or her permission to move with your child out of state. Ask your legal resource specialist if you are unsure. Again, this is something that is not applicable if your ex is not in your child’s life at all.
  • Keeping the school aware of your situation. In some cases, a noncustodial parent is allowed to pick up a child from school, and in other cases, they are not. Sometimes, the noncustodial parent will be an emergency contact and other times, that’s not the case. Your child’s school or daycare center will know how to handle these situations, but you have to let them know what the specific situation is. Be very clear about who is allowed to pick up your child and who is to be called in case of an emergency.

Having full custody of your child is a large responsibility. In some cases, however, it is in the child’s best interest for one parent to have sole custody and for the other to have limited (or no) visitation. If you aren’t sure whether you should pursue full custody of your child, contact Family Law Legal Group. We can walk you through the process of your child custody case and help you to make the decisions that are right for your family.


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