“How can I get full custody of my kids?”
As Stockton family law attorneys, we hear that question frequently – but the answer isn’t as simple as it seems.
How Can I Get Full Custody of My Kids?
Courts in California generally recognize that kids benefit most from a good relationship with both parents, even when those parents don’t get along with each other. There are some exceptions, such as cases in which one parent has been abusive, but for the most part, children have a right to have relationships with both parents.
What Do You Mean When You Say Full Custody?
When most people say “full custody,” they typically mean sole custody – a situation in which one parent has legal and physical custody of the child but the other parent does not.
Legal custody is a parent’s authority to make decisions about a child’s education, his or her religious upbringing, health and general welfare.
Physical custody refers to a child’s physical presence with a parent.
Sometimes parents only mean to say that they want full physical custody of their children while the other parent is entitled to visitation. If that’s the case in your situation, your divorce attorney may encourage you to
Requesting Full Custody: What the Courts Need to See
If you’re requesting full custody of your kids, you’ll have to provide the court with a compelling reason your children’s other parent shouldn’t share custody with you. You can’t expect the court to just take your word for it; in fact, you’ll have to prove that there is a valid reason that your ex shouldn’t be part of your children’s lives.
Some of the cases that cause courts to rule entirely in one parent’s favor when it comes to full custody include:
- Child abuse. In cases where there is documented child abuse, the courts may grant the non-abusive parent full custody. It’s important that you have documentation to back up your claims, such as photos or police reports, when you’re accusing the other parent of abuse. Remember that false allegations can destroy your credibility, however, and that the court may question your ability to foster a loving relationship between your children and the other parent if you are willing to make false allegations of abuse.
- Domestic violence. From the Administrative Office of the Courts: “If a court decides there is domestic violence (now or in the past 5 years) against a parent or the children, the judge must follow special rules to decide custody of the children. Usually, the judge cannot give custody to the person who committed domestic violence. But the judge can give that person visitation.” (Even then, the judge may still be able to give custody to the person who committed the domestic violence.)
- Drug or alcohol abuse. The courts can consider substance abuse in a custody dispute, which includes the abuse of prescription medications, street drug use, or alcohol abuse. However, just the allegation (or even proof) that the other parent has used drugs or abused alcohol isn’t usually enough to support a full custody claim. Usually, the other parent must frequently, habitually or continually use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol. (The court may limit parenting time or create other orders that protect the children due to occasional drug use or alcohol abuse, however.)
- Abandonment. If one parent has abandoned the children, the courts may recognize that there hasn’t been any bonding between the kids and that parent. In cases such as those, it wouldn’t be in the kids’ best interests to share custody – especially if the other parent is unreliable and may drop right back out of the children’s lives.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Child Custody?
If you’re still wondering how you can get full custody of your children during your divorce, we may be able to help you. Call us at 209-910-9865 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online to schedule a consultation today. We’ll discuss your case, find out about your circumstances and start formulating a plan that gets you and your children the best possible outcome.