Child Custody in Divorce: Is Seeking Full Custody Right For You?
Wondering if full custody is right for you? Here are some questions to help you make an informed decision.
Question: Am I trying to punish my ex?
Food for thought: All custody decisions are decided based on what the courts determine to be in “the best interests of the child.” Generally, the courts agree, what is in the best interests of a child is maintaining close relationships with both their parents whenever possible. In considering which type of custody — full (legally called “sole custody”) or shared — to request, do some deep thinking about why you think sole custody is in your child’s best interests.
Pursuing sole custody may absolutely be appropriate if your co-parent is affected by issues such as severe mental illness, addiction, or if your co-parent is a perpetrator of abuse or neglect, or the parent has “walked out” and purposefully removed themselves from the child’s life. If any of these significant situations are present, the courts may agree that you seeking sole custody is your child’s best interests.
On the other hand, many divorcing parents fight for full custody as a way to exact revenge for their own feelings of betrayal or hurt by the breakdown of the marriage. Why are you seeking full custody? Is there an actual behavior or serious issue that you feel puts your child at risk, or is it because of your own emotional response to divorce? Get clarity on this before moving forward.
Does my schedule accommodate full custody?
Being a full-time single parent is exponentially more challenging, and more expensive, than a shared parenting plan. If you work full-time, who will care for your children after school? Can you afford to take off days when your children or babysitter are sick? How will you re-charge your emotional and physical batteries when you’re 100% responsible for your child, with no downtime? If finances are an issue, and you lack a strong support network, full custody may not be in your child’s best interest.
Am I being controlling?
Are you motivated to get full custody because there’s a legitimate reason, or because you want to be in control? Remember that your kids are watching how you make decisions and treat their other parent. If you’re rigid and have a “my way or the highway” approach to divorce, you are at risk for having trouble co-parenting! Being flexible and respectful will make you a much better role model and teach your kids invaluable life lessons: how to get along with others and handle adversity.
Do I want full custody or do I not want to pay child support?
If you expend a lot of energy fuming over paying child support, and worrying over how it’s spent, you may be tempted to get full custody so you no longer have to pay support. Remember that your goal should be making sure your children live a comfortable life, which is the point of child support. Trying to get full custody so you can keep your money to yourself is not in the best interest of the children.
The bottom line is that whenever there is a way for a child to have meaningful relationships with their parents, both co-parents need to work together to make this happen. All of this food for thought? Your ex needs to consider it, too. As a good step forward, consider consulting with a family law attorney to discuss if full custody is a likely outcome in your matter, and to learn about all your rights and options for protecting your child’s best interests.
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