Child custody is one of the most important issues to consider when going through a divorce. As discussed in a previous post, custody judgments hinge upon the best interest of the child involved in the dissolution of a marriage or other relationship. In determining the best interest of the child, the family court has several options to exercise in placing the child in the most favorable situation as possible. While less common, it is possible for a court to award sole custody to one parent alone, giving that one parent the complete child custody privileges and responsibilities and denying these rights to the other parent. Our experienced Santa Rosa custody attorneys often advise clients that a sole custody judgment requires a strong showing that the other parent who is to be denied any rights in regards to the child is unfit for parenting.
The Bar is High
Because of the high threshold of proving that one of the parents is unfit for parenting, it is difficult to obtain a sole custody judgment. In order to be considered unfit for parenting, extreme examples must be illustrated to the family court, such as a history of violence and/or destructive behavior, placing the child in dangerous situations, and mental instability. If such unfavorable attributes are displayed, then the court may award sole custody rights to the parent seeking such rights under the premise that the radical behavior of the other parent is not in line with the best interests of the child.
Example in the News
An illustration of this type of custody battle is exemplified by the divorce proceedings of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. According to reports, Holmes is reportedly seeking full legal custody and primary residential custody of their 6-year-old daughter. Physical custody addresses who the child will live with on a daily basis. Legal custody pertains to which parent will have the right to make important decisions for the child in regards to such issues as education, health care, and religion. From reports that have surfaced thus far, it appears that Holmes' drastic decision to seek sole custody is predicated on the couple's disparate views on religion. To obtain a sole custody judgment, Holmes will have to provide extensive evidence as to why Cruise is unfit for parenting. As stated by one legal observer, "...unless she can show some kind of outrageous and dangerous behavior by Mr. Cruise, she is not going to get it."
Thus, strong evidence is required to prove that a parent is unfit to be in the child's life as a primary caregiver. The Holmes/Cruise situation reinforces the high standard that the family court has established when considering whether or not it would be in the child's best interest to be under the sole custody of one of the parents.
Of course, child custody can be arranged in several different ways. One parent may be awarded full legal custody rights but share physical custody with the other parent. One parent may have sole custody rights while the other parent may have supervised visitation rights. These are just a few of the options available. Because there are so many ways to arrange custody rights, it is vital to seek the advice of a Santa Rosa divorce attorney in order to understand the available options and to establish which option is most favorable in the given situation. If you decide that pursuing sole custody is the best option, then it is absolutely vital to have the aid of an experienced legal professional who can advocate that position in front of the judge.