What It Really Means to Seek “Sole” Custody of the Children

What It Really Means to Seek “Sole” Custody of the ChildrenGoing through a divorce can be extremely tough, especially if you have children. You may be used to seeing your child every morning, putting them to bed every night, and even having certain routines after you pick them up from school each day. However, now that you are getting a divorce, there are many questions and concerns arising around the children and their best interests going forward.

It may be difficult for you to fathom the idea of going a few days without seeing them. You may have the thought of seeking sole custody, but before doing so, it is crucial that you know and understand what this term really means.

Defining custody

When a person seeks any type of custody, they usually want to legally establish that they have parental rights to their child. This is common in divorce, as one parent may threaten to take the child, or there may be disagreements about the child’s new schedule with each parent. There are two different types of child custody in Tennessee, which include:

  1. Physical custody: Physical custody means that a parent is given the right to see their child face to face, spend time with their child for a certain amount of time, and accepts the responsibility to take care of the child’s physical needs and wants.
  2. Legal custody: Legal custody means that a parent is given the right to make certain decisions regarding how their child will be raised or taken care of. These decisions may surround the child’s education, religion, healthcare, wellbeing, and more.

Joint custody vs. sole custody

There are two different types of custody, which are joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody generally means that parents share physical AND legal custody. . This is usually equal parenting time or something like a 40/60 split, which means one parent may get slightly more or less time with the child than the other. It also means that they both have legal say in raising their child. If one parent dismisses the other parent’s voice, opinions, or wishes when it comes to the child, the other parent can take the issue to court because they have joint custody.

Sole custody is different:

  • Sole physical custody: the child lives with one parent exclusively, or nearly exclusively. If Parent A only sees his or her child for two weeks every summer, is under supervised visitation, or never spends time with the child, then Parent B has sole physical custody.
  • Sole legal custody: one parent is in charge of all decisions regarding how the child is raised. These decisions include educational opportunities, religious upbringing, medical decisions, and more.

Can you be given sole custody in only one area?

You can. Generally, it occurs when one parent is granted sole legal custody, but there is a joint physical custody agreement. If this is the case, the parent given sole legal custody will make all decisions about the child alone, while they share physical custody with the other parent. Sole physical custody and joint legal custody is unlikely but not impossible.

How is child custody decided in Knoxville, TN?

Many parents assume that there is a certain blueprint or method used to determine who gets sole or joint custody. However, that is not the case because every couple’s divorce and child custody case is unique and different, which means that they each come with their own set of factors and circumstances. The primary factor used to decide whether the parents will get sole or joint custody in Tennessee is determining the child’s best interests.

Tennessee works hard to find a way to allow children to see and spend time with both of their parents, as the courts believe that is what is truly in the best interest of the children. However, if it is impossible for both parents to provide a healthy, happy, and loving environment or relationship with the child, sole custody may be given to only one parent.

Is it difficult to get sole custody?

As mentioned, the courts in Tennessee typically agree that it is in the best interests of the child to have time with both parents. It can be difficult to get sole custody, as there would need to be special factors, events, or circumstances presented to the court to prohibit the other parent from being in their child’s life. You may be granted sole physical custody if your co-parent:

  • Is abusive, physically or sexually
  • Is incarcerated
  • Has a history of addiction or substance abuse
  • Is currently unhoused, or living in dangerous or squalid conditions
  • Has a serious medical condition which leaves them unable to care for your child

In truth, you may be granted sole legal custody if any of the above apply, too – but again, circumstances vary from family to family.

We urge all parents who think they want sole custody of their children to speak with one of our Knoxville attorneys first. When you share custody, you have a partner. He or she may not be the partner you want anymore, but at least you’re not parenting alone. Sole custody is an enormous responsibility, and it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

However, if you truly believe that your co-parent would be a danger to your child, or that his or her lifestyle would cause your child harm, then sole custody is absolutely the right choice. Our team will do whatever is in our power under the law to show the court that your goals are aligned with your child’s best interests.

The Knoxville child custody lawyers at LaFevor & Slaughter are ready and available to assist you. Our team is aware of the obstacles and challenges that may emerge when going through this process. Visit our contact page or call our office to schedule a case review with one of our attorneys today. We look forward to speaking with you soon!