How to Get Sole Custody in California

Going through a divorce when there are children involved can become extremely difficult. This is especially true if both parents don’t agree on a custody situation and one parent fights for sole custody. There are many circumstances where getting sole custody is possible. While it may not always be easy, knowing how the process works and the battles you may face along the way can help you get the outcome you desire.

What is Sole Custody?

Sole custody gives one parent or guardian full legal and physical rights to the child. According to California Family Code 3006, sole legal custody gives one parent the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, health, and education. The child lives solely with that one parent.

When is Sole Custody Awarded?

In most divorce cases, the court will give joint legal custody between two parents or guardians as long as it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents in their life. When this may not be the case, one parent may decide to file for sole custody.

Sole custody is awarded to one parent if they can prove that the co-parent is unfit to care for the child or puts the child’s health and/or welfare at risk.

Circumstances where sole custody is more likely include instances when:

  • One parent is legally unfit to care for the child.
  • A parent has a history of abuse, child neglect, or domestic violence.
  • There is reason to worry about the child’s mental and physical safety if they are with a parent.

In California, you need to prove to the court that it is in your child’s best interest to be solely with you. As the court considers each parent’s ability to provide adequate care, they will also look at the relationship the child has with the parent and the stability of each parent’s home.

Home stability includes factors such as:

  • Ability to provide food, shelter, and medical care
  • Financial stability
  • Emotional stability in the home

As all of these factors are investigated, the court will determine if a parent’s home is stable enough to accommodate all of the child’s needs. A parent must have persuasive and compelling evidence to gain full custody of a child. The court does not make these decisions lightly and the parent filing for sole custody needs to fully understand this.

If both parents are considered fit and their homes are stable, with no history of abuse or neglect, the court may decide to grant joint custody or have a shared parenting arrangement. In these cases, gaining full custody can be more difficult.

Filing for Sole Custody in California

Filing for sole custody of your child can become a lengthy process if the proper steps are not taken. Some papers need to be completed and filed with the court. If any pieces are missing, it can result in delays. Many people seek the help of a family law attorney to guide them in the process.

Filing Process

To file for full custody in California, the following steps need to be taken:

  • Complete the Petition for Custody and Support
  • Complete the Summons and the Attachment to the Summons

Once these forms are completed, they will be served on the other parent. A court hearing will then take place so that you can present your case as to why you should be awarded full custody. You will need to provide evidence to support your case, including witness testimony, financial records, and documents related to the child’s well-being.

If sole physical custody is granted, the non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights. But, depending on the situation and risk factors, there may be limits and restrictions such as only allowing supervised visits. While the parent will get to see their child, they will not be allowed to see them alone.

How Long Does the Process for Sole Custody in California Take?

The length of a full child custody case in California can depend on several factors including the complexity of the case, the court’s schedule, and the availability of witnesses and evidence. If both parents reach an agreement, the process length can be shorter than if the case goes to trial. Typically, sole custody cases can take several months or up to a year to resolve. Since each case is unique, the timeframe will vary.

The Bottom Line

If you decide to file for sole custody in California, be sure to have all of the correct paperwork settled with the court. You also want to have the proper evidence to prove your case that sole custody is in your child’s best interest. Seeking the help of a family law attorney can help to guide you along the way. While the process can be lengthy in some cases, remember that it will be worth it in the end when your child is in a safe and loving environment. If you have questions about filing for Sole Child Custody or other Family Law issues, please do not hesitate to give me a call: Bill @ 714.841.1931.