I want sole custody! How many times have I heard this? Almost daily.
When I initially meet with a client, many mistakenly believe that an award of sole custody is more than it is - that somehow the other parent's rights to the child are terminated. Not true.
The concept of sole custody can be appear confusing. Perhaps parents have watched too many TV divorce dramas or derived their knowledge from speaking with family, friends and neighbors.
So - what does sole custody really mean?
Sole custody simply gives ultimate decision-making power to one parent. For example, a parent who has sole custody can make all decisions for the child including those relating to medical, education and religion without the input of the other parent. A parent with sole custody can essentially act unilaterally.
Compare sole custody to joint custody here: http://www.briankaschel.com/blog/2011/06/
However, the other parent (the one not awarded sole custody) retains several important rights:
1. The right to access the child's academic, medical, hospital and other health records unless a court has ordered otherwise.
2. The right to have a relationship with child through visitation and other forms of contact.
3. The right to modify the sole custody award in the future upon a showing that there is a material change in circumstances, which affects the best interest of the child.
Joint legal custody (joint decision-making) is the preferred arrangement. However, there are instances when sole custody may be appropriate such as when one of the parents is deemed unfit or when the parents have such a tumultuous relationship that arriving at joint decisions would be virtually impossible.
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