How Can a Father Get Full Custody of Their Child?

Hossein Berenji, Aug 12, 2020

It was common for judges to give preference to a mother in divorce cases, especially when the children were young. The “Tender Years Doctrine” favored mothers as the primary caregiver based on outdated general roles. Most states, including California, have stopped using this legal principle.

Today, a parent’s gender is not a factor in custody decisions in California. Each parent begins a custody case on an equal footing. The belief is that a child benefits from a continued and close relationship with both parents, so many courts favor joint custody arrangements.

However, there are some cases in which joint custody is not in the child’s best interest. Therefore, the court may grant sole or full custody to one parent.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Custody includes physical custody and legal custody.

Where a child resides is referred to as legal custody. When a parent has full physical custody, the child resides with that parent full time. A court order directs visitation with the other parent.

The power to make decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and other activities is referred to as legal custody. The parent with sole legal custody does not need to consult with the other parent when making these decisions. The other parent may have access to information about the child but has no input into decisions affecting the child.

The court may divide custody in numerous ways. A parent may receive full legal custody, but the court may grant joint physical custody. Likewise, a parent could have full physical custody, but share legal custody with the other parent.

The court may award joint physical and legal custody to the parents or sole physical and legal custody to just one parent. The best interest of the child will always be the most important factor used by the court to determine custody issues.

When Can a Father Gain Full Custody?

If either parent asks the court for full custody, that parent must be ready to prove to the court that denying the other parent physical or legal custody is in the child’s best interest. That is true whether a mother or a father is asking for full custody.

Some situations that could lead to an award of full custody for a father include, but are not limited to:

  • The mother has been accused of committing child abuse or domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse.
  • The mother has an alcohol or drug abuse problem.
  • There are allegations of neglect against the mother.
  • The mother is living with someone who poses harm to the child.
  • The child will not have a stable and secure home with the mother.
  • The mother raised false allegations of child abuse against the father to prevent the father from having a relationship with the child.
  • You establish that the mother is a proven flight risk with the child.
  • The mother has not been a caregiver for the child or cannot care for the child’s needs.

The reasons for requesting full custody do not always involve domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or other wrongdoing. If a child spends a majority of his or her time with one parent, the court may determine that it is in the child’s best interest to continue with the same routine. If there are no allegations of wrongdoing by either party, keeping the child’s routine and life uninterrupted can be a significant factor in deciding custody cases.

Even though a father may receive full custody, a mother may still receive liberal visitation with the child. However, in cases involving abuse or other behavior that could put the child in harm, the court can order supervised visitation for the mother.

What Can a Father Do to Improve His Chances of Receiving Full Custody?

Hiring a family law attorney who has extensive experience handling child custody matters is one of the best ways a father increases his chance of receiving full custody. A child custody attorney understands the California custody laws. However, the attorney also understands how judges in the local court rule in custody matters.

Other steps fathers can take to increase their chance of receiving full custody include:

  • Make sure that you are involved with your child’s education, healthcare, and other activities.
  • Spend as much time with your child as possible.
  • Have a work schedule that allows you to be flexible and available for your child, especially after school and on weekends.
  • Make sure that your home is clean, safe, and suitable for a child.
  • Demonstrate that you can be calm and restrained, even though your ex-partner may try to incite your temper.
  • Do not talk about your child’s other parent in front of your child.
  • Demonstrate good parenting skills by providing adequate supervision, helping with homework, acting as a positive role model, and using appropriate discipline.

Be prepared for a court-ordered evaluation if your child’s other parent contests custody. Your attorney can help you take other steps to improve your chances of receiving full custody, including avoiding mistakes and preparing for a child custody evaluation.