How to Get Sole Custody of Your Kids

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Are you ready to increase the odds that you'll get sole custody of your children? Start by learning what the terminology means, and then apply these tips.

Understand Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody

When it comes to child custody, you have to get the terminology right. Sole custody differs from joint custody in a number of ways. Primarily, the two concepts are different because sole custody includes legal and physical custody, while joint custody does not. By now, you may be wondering what this means. Essentially, when the court is granting sole custody, they're assigning legal and physical custody to a single parent. Joint custody, on the other hand, can refer to legal custody, physical custody, or both. In other words, parents who share joint custody may only share joint legal custody, meaning that they equally share the responsibility for making major legal decisions on behalf of the child. Furthermore, it's technically possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. This is where understanding the terminology really comes into play.

Sole custody usually encompasses both legal and physical custody, and it is sometimes called "full custody." This is generally the type of child custody that most parents are attempting to secure when they head to court. In such cases, one parent is considered the custodial parent, while the other parent is generally granted generous visitation rights, as determined by the court. Typically, the court will agree to grant visitation rights unless such action does not serve the best interests of the child.

Factors Considered

Many factors go into determining child custody. Some of them are absolutely critical, like what's the child's best interests in terms of safety and stability, while others may seem superficial. Any parents who want to win sole custody should consider the full list of factors that may be considered during a child custody proceeding, including the following:

  • The Best Interests of the Child - The major factor a court uses to determine who will win sole custody is the best interests of the child. A parent looking to win sole custody should be prepared with a clear reason why joint custody will not serve the child's best interests.
  • Courtroom Etiquette: Parents who want to win sole custody should exercise proper courtroom etiquette during a custody hearing. One example of courtroom etiquette is avoiding interruptions and angry outbursts.
  • Documentation - Parents who want to win sole custody should bring all documents pertaining to custody matters to court.
  • Courtroom Dress - Parents who want to win sole custody should dress appropriately for court including dark suits and dress shoes.


There are certain obstacles involved with parents winning sole custody including:

  • Many family courts are reluctant to grant sole custody to one parent unless there are extenuating circumstances. These may include evidence of ongoing drug and/or alcohol abuse or domestic violence in the home
  • If a parent wins sole custody, the child's other parent will probably still be granted generous visitation rights

For more information about how to win full custody, speak with a qualified attorney in your state or refer to more references about strategies to help win sole custody.

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  1. California Courts. Basics of custody and visitation.