Why You Probably Shouldn't Fight for Sole Custody

You and your spouse are splitting up. Regardless of the reason, you have to figure out how you'll handle parenting once your divorce is final. Will you try to co-parent with your soon-to-be-ex or push for sole custody?

Barring extreme circumstances, such as an abusive spouse, you might want to consider your options outside of sole custody.

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What lawyers say about pursuing sole custody

The thought of having near-exclusive custody of your child can be enticing. However, pursuing the arrangement is difficult, and even if you get sole custody, it may not be what you expected. We asked six family lawyers to explain why you might want to consider other avenues.

You can put limits on joint custody

Before you start down the potentially lengthy and costly path of pursuing sole custody, consider your motives. If revenge is a primary driver, think about whether that's a valid reason to keep your kids away from their father or mother.

If your main motive is your children's well-being, next consider ways you can support that without sole custody. Randall Kessler, founder of KS Family Law and author of "Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future," explains:

"If a parent wants control or decision-making — especially over certain areas like education — that can still be obtained, even if the parents share joint custody. It just has to be in the 'fine print.' And that will likely be much easier to get agreement on than sole custody, which may require a trial."

Instead of focusing on what you can take away, spend you energy on making sure your parenting plan suits your children's best interests.

Don't give strangers all the power

When you fight for sole custody, you will most likely need to go through a trial. Don't go into one lightly.

Loren Costantini, a lawyer with over two decades of experience says, "The life of a child should not be determined by a judge, guardian ad litem, an attorney for the minor child and/or Family Relation officers who are all strangers to the child. The parents know the child best."

Costantini continues, "By fighting for custody it leaves the decision of custody to people who do not know the parents or the children. They make their decision based upon a short term study of the broken family who are put under a microscope at the worst point in time of their lives."

"Additionally, all people observing/evaluating bring their own unknown biases and agendas to the table. Essentially, child custody is decided by strangers when the parents, if instructed and counseled properly, are the appropriate people for deciding the future of their children."

Sometimes when you try to control the situation too much, you actually lose any control you previously had. Trial should be the last resort after failing to reach a mutual understanding with the other parent.

It might backfire

You have your lawyer, and you have your plan. You think you're all set to get sole physical custody.

There's only one problem: Your spouse has their lawyer and their plan, too.

"Unless there is family violence or extreme circumstances, it is very unlikely that you will be appointed sole managing conservator of your child, resulting in unnecessary legal fees and the added stress of litigation," Abby Gregory of Connatser Family Law clarifies.

She continues: "Also, seeking this type of conservatorship without cause will show the court your inability and/or unwillingness to co-parent with your child's mother/father, and it may backfire."

Sometimes when you push too hard for one extreme solution while your spouse is willing to work out a compromise, you end up looking bad in front of the judge.

Sole custody isn't always sole parenting

Many parents seek sole custody assuming it means only they will have contact with their children. Often, that isn't how it works.

Shane Neilson from Family Law Group LLP explains that in California, "It is highly unlikely that a parent will not get a reasonable amount of time with their child/children. In cases of substance abuse, regular testing can be ordered. The court can also appoint a person to supervise visits for a period of time to ensure the child's safety. This is a regular situation."

He continues, "Even if one parent gets an order for 'sole physical custody' it is highly likely that the other parent will have some amount of visitation with their child/children. Absent a showing of harm to the child, the court will provide some visitation."

This is common in many other states as well, so it's important to understand exactly what you're fighting for.

Save your time and money

While most family courts try to rule on a co-parenting arrangement in a timely fashion, when a parent pushes for sole custody, it's an entirely different timeline.

Father's rights lawyer Anne Mitchell of says, aside from the harm a long court battle can do to a child, "fighting for sole custody, which is not the default in any state at this point in time in our society, is very expensive. And, because it is not the default, it rarely works except under extreme, clear circumstances."

She goes on to suggest that the money you would sink into this fight would be much better spent on your child's college fund.

Are you ready to explain it to your children?

You may have a problem with your ex, but your children may not. Even if you manage to convince a family court that you should have sole custody, it might end up causing more trouble than it was worth.

Eric Klein of Klein Law Group says, "The reason why a parent should not fight for 100% sole custody is because a parent should not want their children to question why Dad or Mom only took time for them every other weekend. Why wasn't Dad in my life more? Why didn't Dad take me to ball games? Why wasn't Mom at my recital?"

As your children get older, they may start to blame the parent with custody for keeping them away from their other parent.

Making a parenting plan for sole or joint custody

Whether you decide to push for sole or joint custody, explaining the details in a suggested parenting plan can help your case tremendously.

But creating a parenting plan on your own can feel overwhelming. You have to address all possible situations, while using airtight language.

Use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating a plan.

The result is a professional-quality document that secures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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