How to Win Full Custody of Your Child

Little girl strolling in park with mom joyfully
Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

Parents seeking to win full custody of a child during a custody battle should be prepared for what may prove to be a challenging fight. Full custody differs from joint custody in that a full custody arrangement grants legal and physical custody to one parent as opposed to both parents.

Before you decide to pursue full custody, however, you should understand your motives. Do you want full custody to punish your child's other parent, or do you really think that they are unfit to share custody of your child? Trying to avoid having to interact with your former partner isn't an appropriate reason to seek full custody.

Family courts across the nation generally agree that joint custody is usually the best arrangement for the child. This arrangement enables the child to see both parents on a regular basis. Unless the other parent poses a serious danger to your child and has a history that indicates a pattern of unsafe behavior, you should question your goal to win full custody.

Getting Full Custody

Full custody is also referred to as sole custody. In a full custody arrangement, one parent is the custodial parent, while the other parent is generally granted generous visitation rights as determined by the court. A court will generally agree to grant the non-custodial parent visitation rights unless visitation does not serve the best interests of the child.

How to Get Full Custody

  • Consider the best interests of your child
  • Find an attorney you can trust (if your budget allows)
  • Understand your state's laws and guidelines
  • Establish why your child will be safer (or better off) with you
  • Fill out the correct forms and provide the appropriate documents
  • Pay attention to your courtroom demeanor
  • Dress appropriately in court
  • Be prepared and respectful to everyone at the hearing
  • Honor the court's final decision, even if it is not in your favor

Factors Considered for Granting Full Custody

Parents who want to win full custody should consider the following factors that may be determinative in a court of law:

  • Best interests of the child: The family court usually determines that it's best for parents to share custody of a child. A parent looking to win full custody should be prepared to state clear reasons why joint custody would not serve the child's best interests, such as if the other parent has issues with substance misuse or a history of leaving the child home alone for extended periods.
  • Courtroom demeanor: A judge may determine a parent's fitness for full custody, in part, on the basis of the parent's demeanor in court. For example, if a parent wants to win full custody, they should avoid interrupting the proceedings and attempt to maintain their composure and avoid angry outbursts.
  • Courtroom dress: During a custody battle, a court may consider the parent's style of dress as a factor in determining whether the parent will win full custody. Parents should wear formal suits and avoid casual clothing.
  • Preparation: A judge will consider the level of preparation of a parent looking to win full custody. Preparation includes factors such as whether the parent has an attorney or whether they have concrete documentation to support their position for full custody.

Following the Guidelines for Full Custody

You may feel it isn't fair for a court to decide full custody based on the criteria above. But since there's little you can do to change these guidelines, you should follow them accordingly to get your best shot at winning sole custody of your child. For more information about how to win full custody, speak with a qualified attorney in your state.

By Debrina Washington
Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.