People sometimes make the mistake of assuming that the court is going to hand out sole custody lightly — as if they will just decide that one parent will do a better job raising the child and then rule that the child gets to live with that parent all the time.
In reality, though, it’s very rare for courts to assign sole custody. They try to use joint custody whenever possible, and removing those parental rights from an individual is seen as a very serious move that is never taken lightly. They need a good reason to do it, so it doesn’t happen in the vast majority of cases.
So, what are some of the potential reasons?
Evidence of abuse or neglect
One of the most commonly used reasons to request sole custody is if the child has been neglected or even abused by the parent. For instance, if domestic violence is the reason for the divorce or even just a factor in that divorce, the court may determine that it is not safe for the child to live with that parent. The child’s safety is certainly seen as more important than dividing custody time equally between both parents.
Addiction or substance abuse
In some cases, evidence of substance abuse and addiction can also be used to obtain sole custody. Again, it is a safety issue. If the court feels that the child will not be safe living with someone who uses illegal drugs or has a history of driving while intoxicated, they can order sole custody goes to the other parent.
As you can tell, these are very extreme situations and sole custody isn’t very common, but it’s still important for parents to know exactly what steps they’ll need to take.