Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt in the fall of 2016. Nearly two years later, the couple has still not finalized their divorce. Why? One of the primary reasons is that the parents cannot agree on the terms of child custody. For the past few months, Jolie and Pitt have had several public legal fights over custody. Why? Jolie reportedly wants sole physical custody of the kids. Pitt has been fighting her every step of the way.
Is it possible for a mother to get full custody of her children? When would a court agree that a mother should be awarded full custody? What arguments should a mother use to support her case? It’s important to understand how California child custody law works to answer these questions.
California Courts Prefer Joint Custody Whenever Possible
In California, both of a child’s parents share equally the right to be present in and make decisions about that child’s life. When parents live together and/or are married, it is easy to share in these responsibilities and rights. Divorce can really change things. Before a divorce can be finalized, parents must agree on terms of child custody. This means both parents have to agree about who gets custody of the child, and when. If parents can’t agree, and tools like mediation aren’t helpful, a court will step in.
When a court is faced with deciding a child custody arrangement, they will do what they believe is in the child’s best interests. Typically, this involves keeping the child in frequent and continuing contact with both parents. As a result, joint physical custody is the preferred custodial arrangement among courts in California.
Reasons a Mother May Secure Sole Child Custody
Courts will be hesitant to award sole custody and prevent a child from having frequent contact with a parent unless there is a valid reason to do so. Mothers must show a court that it is in the child’s best interests to award sole custody.
Here are some reasons why a court may award sole custody.
Domestic Violence: A child’s safety will be a court’s number one priority. If a mother presents evidence that a father has been abusive (e.g. physical, emotional, sexual), a judge may be inclined to award sole custody. In fact, sole custody may be awarded on a temporary basis until allegations of abuse have been fully investigated.
Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse: Courts will also not tolerate a parent who habitually abuses drugs and/or alcohol. In some cases, the use of drugs or alcohol can lead to issues of abuse, neglect, and even abandonment.
Demonstrated Psychological Issues: A parent must be mentally fit to take care of a child. Mothers who believe that the child’s other parent suffers from a debilitating psychological condition can ask a court to step in and intervene. A court can require both spouses to undergo extensive mental health evaluations. If a mental condition would interfere with the father’s ability to parent, a court may award sole custody.
Abandonment: The fact that a father abandoned a child at any point in their life can be used to fight for sole custody.
Sole Custody Doesn’t Mean that the Father Will Be Out of the Picture
If you win sole custody you have the right to have your child live with you indefinitely. There is no obligation to let the child live with the other parent. However, a father who loses the right to custody can still secure visitation rights. Visitation is often used in sole custody situations to ensure that a child has a relationship with both parents. If sole custody was awarded because the child’s safety or wellbeing was in question, a court will likely require any visitation to be supervised.
Do you want to fight for sole custody of your kids? You need to speak with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney. Call us today to set up a free consultation with our compassionate legal team.