Be a Hands-On Parent: What Is Primary Custody?

primary custody

Only 29% of parents make custodial decisions without any third party involvement, and those parents should consider themselves to be lucky.

There are many custody options. Ideally, both parents can enter an agreement and have joint custody. If this isn’t an option, one parent should take the lead and establish themselves as having primary custody over the child.

What is primary, or sole, custody? Continue reading for more information and how to be the custodial parent.

What Is Primary Custody?

Primary custody means you’re the primary caregiver for your child.

Your child lives with you, you’re responsible for their wellbeing, for providing basic care, and for smaller responsibilities such as making sure they attend school and extracurricular activities.

How the Courts Choose Primary Custody

The courts always decide which parent gets primary custody by deciding what’s best for your child.

They will take the most important information into consideration, such as if you have a job, if you have a prior criminal history, and if you have a substance abuse problem.

Other serious information the courts will take into consideration include:

  • The parent’s financial background
  • Their ability to care for the child
  • Their mental and physical capabilities
  • Any history of abuse or neglect
  • Their relationship with their child

But the courts will also take minor information into consideration.

For example, let’s say you live closer to your child’s school. And let’s say your former partner has to move to another city for work. There’s a good chance the parent living close to the school will be granted primary custody.

The court will also look into other details such as which parent spent more time with their child and which parent was involved in extracurricular activities.

More courts are establishing primary custody over joint custody. Why is that?

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This prevents the child from moving back and forth between two houses. The non-custodial parent can still have visitation rights and the custodial parent can still receive child support.

Does the Biological Parent Have to Have Sole Custody?

Another common question asked is if the biological parent(s) is the one who always has to have sole custody?

As stated previously, the courts will determine custody based on what’s best for the child. If they determine both parents are unfit for sole custody, they will give custody to a non-biological parent.

In most cases, this parent is still related to the child. Grandparents are a common example. If you established godparents or another custodial individual, then the courts will rule sole custody to that individual.

Will the biological parents still have visitation rights? This depends. If the child is legally adopted by the custodial parents, the biological parents lose their visitation rights.

But if the biological parent can agree on visitation with the court and the custodial parents, then the biological parent has that right.

Can the Courts Change the Custodial Parent?

The short answer to this question is yes, most definitely. But the longer answer is, there has to be many changes that require a custodial parent change.

Let’s say the child gets sick and the custodial parent needs help caring for the child. The courts may call for more visitation from the other parent or change the legal custody to joint custody.

There may be changes with a parent’s life that calls for a legal custody change.

Let’s say the custodial parent loses their job and can’t fulfill their financial obligation. The courts may order more child support from the other parent, or they may grant the other parent custody if they’re financially more stable.

In addition, a parent’s capabilities may also change. A parent can develop a substance abuse problem, could get arrested, or can even get remarried and the stepparent may exhibit bad behaviors over the child.

All of these factors are ones that can cause the courts to change the custodial parent. Since these are major changes, they require different court hearings until the changes are confirmed.

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Do the Courts Favor Moms Over Dads?

A common stereotype is the courts favor the moms to have sole custody over dads. The statistics do prove this is correct. Five out of six custodial parents are moms. This was the statistic in 2014 and it hasn’t changed since 1994.

However, the courts don’t base this off of gender. They base this off of the behaviors of the mothers and fathers. For example, they look at which parent spends more time with their child and who provides the most income.

The courts also take another voice into consideration — the voice of the parent. If one parent wants custody over another parent, the courts will listen and will use that to make their decision.

With all of these factors considered, the mother is usually the one involved in the child’s life more than the father. This is why the courts usually favor the mom.

Does this mean the father can’t gain custody? No. But fathers who want sole custody need to ensure they’re involved with every aspect of their child’s life in order to gain custody.

How to Get Full Custody

To get full custody, you must prove these factors to the court:

  • Your care is in the child’s best interest
  • You have a stable home life
  • You have a great relationship with your child
  • The other parent has no involvement with your child
  • The other parent can’t meet your child’s needs
  • The other parent has a criminal history
  • The other parent can’t financially fulfill your child’s needs
  • The other parent showed signs of abuse/neglect
  • The other parent has a substance abuse problem

You also shouldn’t go into the courts alone. A child custody lawyer will help you navigate family law and will support you in court.

Become the Custodial Parent

Are you in a custody battle? If so, you probably want primary custody over your child.

This is when you’re responsible for the basic care of your child. A lot goes into achieving full custody and you should have a lawyer to ensure you get full custody.

For more lifestyle advice, continue reading our blog.

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