In what situations can full custody of a child be granted?

Getting full custody of a child means 2 things. One is parenting time, that you would have all the parenting time, and the second is decision making, you would also have the right to make all of the major decisions in the child’s life. That’s what I call full custody.

For the most part, if you have a mother and a father that are both good parents, there’s no alcohol- or drug-related issues, and there’s no questions of safety or endangerment to the child, then in most cases the courts are going to give both parents parenting time. You’re not going to get sole custody of your child.

a little girl holding onto her mother's thigh

When you can get sole custody of your child is when the circumstances are such that it’s not in the child’s best interest to be with both parents. Now, when would that be the case?

I’ve had cases where there’s mental illness on one side and the parent is not able to take care of themselves, never mind a child, and therefore the other parent has received full custody.

There are situations where one parent has abandoned the family and the child and they don’t even know where that parent is, and has no contact with the child whatsoever. I’ve seen people get divorces where like I said they can’t find the other party. In those cases you absolutely would get full custody of the child.

There are other instances where people have received full custody, or close to full custody, when there’s a drug and alcohol problem. Say you’ve got a spouse that is out of control with either their alcoholism or their drug-related issues, and they are not safe to take care of the children. You would have to show that in court that they are unsafe.

If this is the case, the most probable outcome would grant the parent only supervised parenting time, meaning that they can’t parent the child without someone else present. That could be a professional or it could maybe be someone else. It depends on the situation. But they would have supervised parenting time. To change their supervised status the parent would have to essentially jump through hoops of some sort. They’d have to show they no longer had drugs in their body, or they had been in therapy and the therapist felt they were ready.

When you’re talking about full custody you need to remember that there needs to be something wrong. You can’t just cut out a parent for no good reason. So if you do have an issue like that, if there are drug and alcohol issues, if there are mental health issues, it’s really something to talk about in more depth. You’re welcome to call us, welcome to call me, and have a conversation about it to see whether or not your situation is such that going for full custody might be appropriate.