What are the limitations of sole custody?

Some North Carolina parents negotiating custody might consider fighting for sole custody. However, they need to understand the differences between physical and legal custody, the reasons why courts might grant sole custody and whether sole custody is in the best interest of the child.

Physical versus legal custody

When people speak about child custody, they are actually referring to two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody relates to where the child will live, so sole physical custody means that the child will live primarily with one parent and perhaps have visitations with the other parent. Legal custody refers to the parent who is responsible for making important decisions relating to things such as education, health and religion.

How do courts see sole legal custody

Overwhelmingly, courts favor shared legal custody even if there is sole physical custody. Increasingly, courts also focus on shared physical custody as a balanced relationship with both parents is seen as in the best interest of the child. However, in cases where the child’s safety is concerned due to domestic violence, neglect or substance abuse, or where one parent is out of the child’s life or too far physically to be involved in making important and emergency decisions, the courts will consider sole legal custody.

The limitations of sole custody

Having sole custody comes with certain limitations. These include:

  • Having the heavy responsibility of making all decisions related to the child
  • Causing the other parent to become more distant from the child
  • Potentially having a more combative relationship between the parents due to resentment and anger
  • Increasing strain in the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent

In most cases, shared custody is the best option for all involved. However, if you feel that it is in your child’s best interest for you to have sole custody, then you should prepare to support your argument with evidence. A family law attorney may help you gather and present this evidence to the court.

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