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Top 10 Most Common Reasons for Sole Legal Custody

When there are children involved, breakups and divorces can dismantle lives. During this difficult time in the family’s collective life, one spouse might act out due to anger, jealousy, or fear. This can put the child’s safety at risk. Because the breakup is already a traumatic event for the child, judges typically prefer to rule in favour of joint custody arrangements. In most cases, it’s deemed in the best interest of the child to continue to see and be raised by both parents.

In situations similar to the one described above, however, it may be in your child’s best interest to seek full custody. If you request full custody, however, expect to face a difficult legal battle. Why? You must demonstrate that any other custody arrangement would be detrimental to your child. You must also prove that your ex (or their new live-in partner) is an unfit parent. Before going to court, make sure you are well-prepared with the expert advice of a family lawyer.

Here are the top ten most common reasons for sole legal custody:

Reason #1: Drug or Alcohol Abuse

One of the most common reasons for sole legal custody is drug or alcohol abuse. Substance abuse can lead to neglect, abuse, and other risks to your child. A parent in an altered mental state is not considered fit to properly take care of a child. The parent may be given an opportunity to work through their substance abuse problems before full custody is awarded.

Reason #2: Neglect

If one parent has seriously neglected the child in the past, it may indicate that this neglect will continue to occur in the future. If your ex has failed to provide basic necessities to your child, including medical care, food, shelter, clothing, or other safeguards, you should look into sole legal custody.

Reason #3: Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is likely the top reason why sole custody is awarded to one parent. If you can prove that your former partner has assaulted or abused you or your child in the past, the judge will want to protect your child from physical harm above all else. In cases of abuse, the judge must order sole legal custody in this case.

You have a particularly very good chance of gaining full custody if that domestic abuse was recent. It’s common to see this occur when the custody filing is paired with a restraining order against the other parent.

Reason #4: Sexual Abuse

Along with domestic abuse, the sexual abuse of a child is a matter judges take very seriously. To protect the child, they will grant sole custody in this type of situation.

Reason #5: Significant Financial Problems

Significant financial problems can lead to the inability to properly care for children, including providing them with food, medical care, and shelter. This wouldn’t be in the best interest of the children.

Reason #6: Mental Illness

A severely mentally unstable parent who exhibits unpredictable or irrational behaviour may pose a danger to children and may be considered unfit. For example, a child shouldn’t be left in the care of a suicidal parent.

However, it’s important to note that the parent with mental health issues is typically offered an opportunity to address their problems. If they can successfully demonstrate their continued effort to become a fit parent, by showing they are going to therapy or taking medications, for example, the court may allow shared custody instead.

Reason #7: Abandonment

If the other parent has abandoned their child, either because they cannot or will not care for them, you can be awarded sole legal custody. You may want to consider this if your kid hasn’t had contact with the other parent for a significant period of time.

In this case, you do not want them resurfacing years from now and exercising their right to custody when the child doesn’t even have a relationship with them. It can be risky to give them the right to make major decisions about the child’s life when they do not know the child enough to understand their needs.

Reason #8: Relocation

If one parent plans to move out of the province or country, it might be in the child’s best interest to award sole custody to one parent.

Reason #9: Incarceration

If a parent is in jail, they don’t have the ability to care for the child. In this case, you could still take your child to visit the other parent in prison, but there is no obligation to do so if you feel as though it would have a negative impact on them.

Reason #10: Breakdown of Communication

It can be tricky to get sole custody due to a breakdown of communication between the parents, but it does occur sometimes. In this case, the relationship with your ex is so strained that you cannot effectively communicate about your child’s needs. The court will likely first order that the parents go to counselling together to try to work through the communication issues.

They might request the use of a parenting app to try to improve the issue as well. If all else fails and it’s clear the parents’ issues are negatively affecting the child, the judge may rule in favour of sole custody.

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